SAN FRANCISCO potential Potrero Hill cohousing site visit w/architect&deve­loper

Join Green architect/EBCOHO member Greg VanMechelen and a local green developer for a visit to a San Francisco site that is approved for development. The (entitled) condo project didn't work out in the financial crisis -- but it could work for cohousing with some changes, at moderate prices by SF standards. The developer has an ownership stake in this property. We'll meet at a DogPatch neighborhood coworking space, close to MUNI and CalTrain, get to know each other, and then walk over to explore the site. We've invited some folks from the local neighborhood association to join us, to get to meet you as well as to provide their feedback on visions for the site. The land is on the south slope of Potrero Hill, and features (according to Greg):


  • just over a half acre (+/-23,300 sf),

  • fronts on dead end streets on the east and west,

  • partial views of the Bay and the East Bay

  • great solar access

  • has a walk score of 78

  • feels somewhat un-City like - it is away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and The Mission.

  • moderately steep with about 40 feet of slope from frontage to frontage, high on the west, low on the east.

  • to the south are modest lots, with a mix of old and new single family and some newer 3 story flat buildings (including some that the developer built a few years ago); across the street to the east are some light industrial buildings, one story and set lower so they don't obstruct the views too badly; to the north is open space, I think it was a quarry at some point and would be hard to develop because of the rough terrain; to the west is a public housing project - relatively low density rowhouse blocks that are being revamped as part of a larger project.




The previous project planned for the site:

  • there was an approved project for 28 units of high density housing

  • podium garage with 4 stories above

  • very dense, maxed out the site to the legal limits

  • mostly stacked 2-story rowhouses (most units are 2 br, 2.5 ba), with some one-story flats for filler

  • access primarily through 2 courtyards, either at grade or through a 3rd story continuous open balcony.

  • small amounts of open space - the courtyards, a shared roof deck,

  • some units have side yard access, either 7 x 18 or 10 x 18

  • all units have balconies, most are about 5 x 6 - not big enough to use for much.

  • would have to be all site-built, and with the garage would have significant excavation and massive concrete work, which makes the construction costs fairly high.




The possibilities:

  • obviously the approved project could move forward, the permits may have expired by now, but it is probably easy in this climate to revive them

  • Greg did a quick sketch that showed that 3 blocks of rowhouses, cascading down the hill, could fit. 

  • 2 courtyards in between, one 33' x 133', mostly parking, one 27' x 100', completely landscaped

  • Up to 20 units, 15' x 40', 600 sf per floor, typically 2 stories with some partial 3 stories.  This would fit 2 br, probably 1.5 baths

  • Parking would be underneath units or on grade.

  • this plan had no common house - could be accommodated by reducing the number of units, or stacking units taller, or making smaller units. Of course, that changes the equations

  • there is an adjoining single family property with well-worn shack that might be available, could be common house. But that means more money would be required to acquire the site.

  • Chris estimates that if the group financed this from the start it could come in for around $500K per unit. (since this is what we technically call a WAG (Wild-Assed Guess), and depends a lot on the design and # of units, figure this could be off significantly - it is useful as a design target, not a promise -- and because of the embedded assumptions, it may not be directly comparable to "retail" prices)


So, EBCOHO members, what do you think? Are you excited? Could you envision living in San Francisco's first cohousing neighborhood? What features would be important to you? Would it be intergenerational or designed for aging in community? This is an opportunity to see the place, see the numbers, meet other cohousing seekers, and see if it can work for you.

(note: the picture above could be the view from your window!) Carpool will leave the East Bay by 9 AM. Site visit will start at 9:30 AM at a Dogpatch neighborhood coworking space, The Hat Factory, with the developer and architect on-site. We will reconvene at a nearby SF location for further discussion, ending at 12:30. BYO water/drinks/snacks as needed. $30 per adult ($20 for EBCOHO Supporting Members - upgrade your membership today for the best deals and first dibs on these opportunities). Advance payment recommended - limited space available. We'll send you details on where to gather and/or carpool link once you have rsvp'd and arranged payment. Wear comfortable shoes for outdoor walking in mud and dirt on the hilly site!

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  • Betsy Morris

    Kurt, we'll be handling it through this MeetUp group unless we set up another one for multiple SF sites. We're making a mailing list including everyone who attended or who RSVP'd "No" but expresed interest, plus everyone who expresses interest through commenting, as you did.

    March 8, 2010

  • Jerry Michalski

    Really helpful meeting. Thanks, organizers!

    March 6, 2010

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