San Francisco neighbors of Twitter founder don’t want his teardown house

Even people with lots of money can run into problems when they want to build a teardown McMansion:

Williams bought the $2.9m property – hardwood floors, an open plan salon and four bedrooms with breathtaking views over three storeys – last year. It was built in 1915 by the architect Louis Christian Mullgardt and was listed in city records as a “potential historic resource”.

Earlier this year Williams, 40, and his wife Sara revealed plans to demolish the house and, with the help of architectural firm Lundberg Design, build a 7,700 sq ft successor into a slope. It would be 20ft lower than its predecessor and be a “zero net energy” home using solar panels, a green roof and sun-friendly windows.

Even before the application was submitted to city planners, neighbours and critics from as far afield as Canada had filed form letters of protest, a backlash which in another medium might have been called trending. “This is such a unique property and it adds diversity of architectural interest to the neighborhood,” wrote one neighbour, Elizabeth Wang. “It would be criminal to demolish it.”

Some accused Williams of plotting to erect a McMansion. “A complete teardown of such a home would … set the stage for numerous future demolitions that will alter the character of our beloved SF Neighborhoods,” one group, Friends of Parnassus Heights, wrote to the real estate blog SocketSite…

Not all agree. Williams’s defenders, such as property site, said Mullgardt was an “architectural footnote” and that in any case his original design was ruined by a 1970s remodelling. “It may have once been charming, but … has been stripped of its dignity and details over the decades, subdivided into apartments and then rebuilt by architect Thomas Eden in what’s best described as faux-Frank Lloyd Wright with trapezoidal windows.”

Is it still NIMBY if a person in Canada is objecting to a possible house in San Francisco?

It appears that even the green features of the home will not mollify some of the neighbors. If the house can’t/won’t be saved, is there anything Williams could do to make the new home palatable to the neighbors? I wonder if Williams has made any efforts to reach out to the neighborhood. What about an ultra-green house that is built in a similar style to the existing homes?

Of course, one way to avoid these situations or to at least make more clear the process by which changes to homes can be made is to declare the area a historic preservation district. If a majority of neighbors are indeed against new houses, perhaps this is the way to go.


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