Tonight: Design Review for Two Proposed Homes at the Tippy-Top of Coso


There will be a lively meeting of the Northwest Bernal Heights Design Review Board tonight at the Bernal Library, as members of the board consider a proposal to build two single-family homes on two undeveloped lots at the northwest corner of Coso and Bonview.

The parcels in question have sat empty since basically forever, but with housing in short supply, private developers have now put forward a plan to build there. However, given the site’s high-profile location, and the fact that it has functioned as a de facto extension of Bernal Heights Park for a long time, the forces of no are rallying to oppose the plan.

Posters around the proposed housing site proclaim “No Big Box Houses in Bernal,” while showing an image of an unrelated project in Corona Heights that is being built by the same construction company. (On the bright side, at least this poster does not include a simulated blast-radius.) When Bernalwood visited the site over the weekend, one neighbor described the proposed homes as “McMansions.”


Such designations are subjective and intentionally pejorative, however, so here are a few concrete facts about the proposed development that Bernalwood has been able to uncover: The proposal calls for the construction of two adjacent single-family homes, on privately-owned land at 6 Bonview and 409 Coso. The former will be 2225 sq-ft; the latter will be 2558 square-feet. Each will provide off-street parking. Design-wise, both generally and generically reflect the “Dwell-inspired” style that is so common for new urban homes these days, which is to say the facades are a mix of rectangular forms, stucco, horizontal wood slats, metal, and glass. Most crucially, however, both homes appear to conform to the strict planning, design, and height guidelines of the Bernal Height Special Use District.

Of course, when it comes to new construction in San Francisco neighborhoods, facts and feelings seldom align. That reality will likely be on full display this evening, so if you’d like to partake of the spectacle, the design review board will meet tonight, May 26, at 7:30 pm in the Bernal Library on Cortland. Bernalwood will also share drawings of the proposed development when they are available.

UPDATE, 27 May: The designs for the two new houses have now been revealed.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

56 thoughts on “Tonight: Design Review for Two Proposed Homes at the Tippy-Top of Coso

  1. So is Campos going to step in here? Clearly, there is no greater evil in modern day San Francisco than attempting to build a place, somewhere, for someone else to live in.

  2. Whoa there, Bernalwood. As one of the neighbors on Elsie Street affected by this development, I’m bothered by the tone of this post, which, IMHO, does an extraordinarily poor job of describing the issues.
    1. We all understand that development is inevitable, and no vacant lot or other property is immune from development in these heady times. Some neighbors on Elsie have their own plans to build on vacant lots. We aren’t idiots.
    2. The lot wasn’t viewed so much as an extension of the park as simply “negative space”, i.e. nothing towering over the modest “standard five” homes on the first block of Elsie.
    3. My concern is simply that a building inappropriate in height and scale, given the hill it will be built on, will tower over our small homes.
    4. Calling the meeting a “spectacle”, drawing attention to the poster that does “not include a simulated blast-radius”, diminishes and mocks our rational concerns.
    5. Speaking of rational concerns, one is that the developers of whom you speak may have been less than forthcoming when speaking with stakeholders in this project.
    5. Let’s have a conversation among the real stakeholders tonight, and not those with agendas in excess of the matter at hand. The developers need to be forthcoming, those with wider agendas need to politely step aside, and permit us to get this reasonably resolved.

    We want to keep over very, very special block of neighbors the warm, connected, family environment that it has been for so many years. We organize to maintain it.

    • Any towering feeling that one might subjectively feel has to do with topography. These plans adhere to the NWBDRB code, which was written in part to account for topography. What would you wish for? a special use district for the first five houses on Elsie?

      • According to the proposal, the houses will rise 30′ from street-level grade, which is what the code allows. The houses will not sit on top of the current dirt rise; instead, the rise would be excavated so the homes will sit at street-level grade.

    • Oh please. “very, very special block”. How precious is it?

      These homes meet all of the Planning and Building code requirements. They do not “tower” over anything. You seem to forget that your existing home and the others nearby can ALSO add on and build to the current height limit.

      I look forward to these two homes being built and I fully support them.

    • Fair points, doggle. Thank you.

      In response, I’d just say that the post was (in part) written in response to the non-objective tone of the poster outside the site, which does extraordinarily poor job of exploring what the proposal actually entails.

    • “5. Speaking of rational concerns, one is that the developers of whom you speak may have been less than forthcoming when speaking with stakeholders in this project.”

      Isn’t it fun when someone implies something without saying anything? Sort of like saying that my neighbor may or may not be harboring a pet lion. I’m not saying he is…I’m just saying that there is loud purring coming from his house.

  3. Yes to housing. No to horizontal wood slats. That’s going to be completely dated in 3…2…1…

    • You can’t rebuild most of the classic house styles of SF, for a variety of reasons. And taste is a fickle thing – easy to forget that, not so long ago, Victorians were held in contempt by popular opinion.

    • Amen! The Ikea-fication of SF is the new local lowest common denominator of style in the current local market, not unlike the ranchers of the 60’s.

      • Isn’t the current “local lowest common denominator of style” the same as the character, or look and feel, of the existing neighborhood?

    • So you want to be the design police too?

      Guess what? I don’t like the color of your house.

    • Is this really the level of control neighbors should have over property that is not theirs? No horizontal slats? Surely this was just a harmless sharing of design opinion, right?

  4. There are builders in Portland who are developing new housing that references PDX classic house styles, so why can’t it be done here? There’s also a ton of f*ugly development going on there (like here), but there are developers building new, vintage style housing that’s also LEED certified. Bernal Design Review Board members, take note!

    • The style of home is not up for review. Bernal is not a historic preservation district.

      Personally, I find diversity of styles most appealing. The mix of Victorian, Edwardian, mid-century tract, cottage, ’70s modern, wood-slat contemporary, etc. make for a wonderful patchwork.

      • Same. Love seeing Flat-fronted Italianate’s next to Colonial Revival next to Moderne next to the random 50’s tract. Just don’t paint it beige and eventually it’ll fit right in.

  5. Ugly and inappropriate is in the eye of the beholder.

    I think the ugliest building in Bernal is the housing on the south east corner of Chavez and Mission. But that was build by the bernal heights neighborhood association.

  6. I appreciate you sharing the details regarding the square footage. These are hardly out of character for the homes in this area of Bernal Heights, construction of this type goes back 30 years. A member of our street/sub-neighborhood list as been a bit hysterical about these homes. Personally I prefer homes to empty lots.

  7. The proposed buildings do tower over the surrounding dwellings, even though the developer will be blasting/back hoe-ing down to the sidewalk level before he builds three stories (each of which is taller than usual) above basement level. The off-street parking includes Mitt Romney-style car elevators. No one is asking for cutesy retro architecture, but there is not a single design element in either of these houses that isn’t directly a result of the Bernal special use district requirements. I believe the square footage of the largest house is closer to 2900 sq. feet, unless the developer has revised his plans since last week. Even a nearby three-story house is shorter, and the average square footage of surrounding dwellings is around 1500 square feet, so you might be able to appreciate the concerns of the neighbors. People have been saying “San Francisco needs housing” since the 1980s, but that alone doesn’t justify every wish of every developer.

    • Help me out here, what’s the difference between a Mitt Romney style car elevator and a Barack Obama style car elevator?

      • “what’s the difference between a Mitt Romney style car elevator and a Barack Obama style car elevator?”

        Well, see, if it’s _my_ house, the design elements are all Barack Obama style, and totally appropriate. But if it’s somebody else’s potential house, the design elements are all Mitt Romney style, and thus out of character with the neighborhood.

      • The Mitt Romney-style car elevator is the one that lifts your 120b dog onto the roof of your car for a long trip cross-country. Decidedly un-Bernal yaknow.

        Just force these developers to pay for a lesbian-friendly kiosk in Precita Park as part of the deal and everyone can high-five all the way to the Wild Side West.

  8. I live on Elsie and I am in full support of the homes being built – provided they abide by whatever city codes, etc.

  9. I live on Bonview and feel that this development actually only marginally affects me. Yes there will be less parking, but we park in our garage. There is also a flip-side positive, currently large trucks will park on the end of the street making it difficult to see around the corner when exiting Bonview, this might solve for this a bit.

    I am in principle in favor of the project as I feel that people should be able to do what they want to their property as long as it is with in the law. The Coso house is going to be a tight squeeze. If you look at the lot it is shaped like a triangle more so than a rectangle.

    See everyone there tonight.

    P.S. I want a car elevator

  10. There are an awful lot of cutesy and snarky comments here. But the reality is that no one who has met with the developer is opposing his right to build housing here. He bought two vacant lots, quickly cut down all the mature trees, and has filed plans to build two new homes. His architects have been more than willing to meet with the neighbors as well as talk through the plan. For the people who live most closely to the proposed development, the concern is not that he is going to build two new homes. It is that he is going to build two new 30 foot homes in an area where most homes are two stories. And he is doing this at the downward slope of a hill where the tallest homes should not be placed. No one is looking for him to build a retro house either. We just want to make sure that whatever is built is contextual within the surrounding blocks. Building within the code is one thing. We could all maximize what we are allowed. But building within the context of the surrounding neighborhood is what matters the most to people who live in the immediate area. The developer can still build two tasteful homes, albeit a bit smaller, and make load of money in this market. And for the 5% of San Franciscans who will be able to afford these new homes, they will have a beautiful new home with great views.

    • Classic NIMBY. “Building within the code is one thing” but……I’m going to complain if you do so since I live in a house that was built 50-60 years ago that you’re not following stylistically (even as I acknowledge you are within the code).

      • Listen SciLaw, Do you even know what a NIMBY is or are you just using a term you found out of convenience? I said we are fine with him building. No one is trying to stop the developer. Are you just name calling because you feel brave in an an anonymous post? I did not say the developer should follow the style. I said he should fit within the context of the neighborhood
        , you supply side freak!

      • I agree with you completely Scilaw. Elsie Neighbor is a classic Nimby. They simply don’t like change. They want any new construction to look like their little old house. They like conformity, rather than individual expression (except when it comes to their own house).

        And, of course, they have to interject the irrelevant comment that only 5% will be able to afford the house. But of course, in classic Nimby style they will not hesitate to sell their house at top dollar when the time comes.

      • “I said he should fit within the context of the neighborhood”

        Sorry, Elsie neighbor, but this line has just been used too often in SF to rationalize just about any opposition to new housing. That’s what’s fun about it – it’s sufficiently vague and subjective that you can block of all change to anything on the ground that it’s just “not in the character of the neighborhood”.

        It can’t be taken seriously anymore.

      • I’m sorry. I’m believe in classic supply/demand economics and not the Reagan-eque supply side economics. In fact, I have no clue what definition you’re using of “supply side” when you’re attempting to pigeon-hole me. Supply side economics states that economic growth can be triggered by lowering barriers to business. I’m not a proponent of that at all. I am a proponent that people need to obey the laws and if they are within the law, I’m not going to dictate my opinions on them. If you’re going to be making up definitions, I guess I’ll call you a communist since you want everything built to conform to your home? See how equally stupid that is?

    • I walked by the site yesterday and noted there were other houses on that block of Bonview that are thirty feet tall. I also saw that that block has a variety of architectural styles. Looking at the graphics, the height of the houses fall right in line with the house next door.

      I have neighbors who demolished a tiny house and built a new house in the late ’90s. The amount of pushback and complaint they got from their near neighbors was appalling. It seemed people were mad that my neighbors had the cheek to actually build something, and that that something somewhat impacted their views, which aren’t protected by the way.

      All the complaints did was somewhat delay the construction, but the house was built and everyone lived mostly happily ever after.

  11. would be nice to see two duplexes built instead but a variance would be required. resulting homes would be a bit cheaper and house 2 more families.

  12. Man, I haven’t seen so many snotty kids mouthing off and calling names since my schoolyard days. Gets real tiring, kids. I know you’re badass, and like to kick people, but it doesn’t make for a nice neighborhood, however you wish to define that.

    • you harangue others for being snide and whatnot here, and then you follow it up with a post about some billionaire who built a tower. talk about hypocritical

  13. I live on Bonview about half way up the block from the lot. I feel sorry for the neighbors right next to the lot, they’re going to lose their beautiful views and sense of space. I’m personally most concerned about early morning construction noise, and how long will it take to build such large houses? We’re also losing five parking spots. On the bright side I like Brian’s point that hopefully large trucks won’t be there anymore. They hurt visibility, and also create a bottle neck and sometimes delivery trucks can’t make it up the street. And there’s no way the occupants are going to use those garage elevators, they’re only building those because of codes.

    • I would suppose that construction noise and debris will be horrendous, and that the building will go on for a period that feels too long (and longer than what the developer says, as that tends to happen; when was the last housing construction project that was done quietly and finished in less time than planned?).

      I wish the best for any residents who are affected, or who feel they will be affected, since perception is 90% of outrage. Rest assured that a millionaire will move in beside you and give out glorious candy on Halloween.

    • As an Elsie St. resident, I can tell you that building these homes will come with some inconvenience. We’ve had at least eight houses built or significantly remodeled in the years we’ve lived here, and we’ve had our share of street blockages, construction noise, and errant nails in our car tires. However, these are known quantities when you choose to live near vacant urban lots, they are temporary conditions, and even the loss of street parking is less significant in my opinion than the fire hazard that dry weeds on a vacant lot offer every.single.year.

      I’m also sad for the people who will lose their sense of space and views, but they can’t possibly have thought that these lots would go vacant forever? In San Francisco?

      • Also, on the upside, any child born during the construction period will be able to sleep through pile driving by the time it’s all done. So there’s that.

      • Views are not protected legally on private property. Maybe you and the neighbors should chip in a few $million to buy these lots and protect your views.

      • bernalgirl: a fair and realistic take on the situation. View retention isn’t a criterion for appealing a project.

  14. A picture perfect example of “too big for the neighborhood” can be found at Highland and Holly Park Circle. The house on the south side of the intersection is classic Bernal, the monstrosity on the north side of the intersection is an eyesore that houses the same size family as the smaller classic home on the south side.

  15. Pingback: Designs for Bonview Homes Revealed at Tense Review Meeting | Bernalwood

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