Neighbors Rally to Keep Ugliness Off Valencia

While the “artisan haircut”-promising 299 Valencia has been attracting a lot of negative attention lately, another forthcoming development down the street is getting neighbors all worked up.

Apparently people are fuming over plans to convert the historic Kentucky Fried Chicken building into another boring, tasteless, cookie-cutter condo development.  The problem?  It's too tall, it doesn't provide any parking (it's a “bike-centric” building, whatever that means), would “devastate” The Marsh Theater next door, and is irresponsible towards the “character, culture and integrity” of the community.  But it gets worse:

[At a meeting discussing the project], one neighbor kept it simple. “My concern is trivial but I will voice it — the building is ugly,” he said.

Yup, it's ugly.  Fact.  It's so ugly that the ugliness of what is slated to replace the neighborhoody KFC is at the heart of the petition letter area businesses are sending to the Planning Commission:

As an owner/manager of a business on Valencia Street I oppose the proposed construction of a five story, fifty-five foot tall, twelve unit apartment building on the corner of Valencia and Hill Streets (1050 Valencia Street). This blandly-designed project is out of character with the charming stretch of mostly one, two and three story buildings and stores along this stretch of Valencia Street and surrounding blocks. It threatens the unique neighborhood feel that attracted us to locate our business here and which draws the clientele that we depend upon for our survival.

We respectfully request that you reject the plans submitted for 1050 Valencia and ask the developer submit plans that are compatible with our neighborhood.

I don't personally have any food in this fight, but I can see where neighbors are coming from.  When I look at the plans, I see yet another pricy see-thru box with a UPS Store on the ground floor, disrupting the unique vibe of the neighborhood.  When I look at what stands today, I see a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

With that, the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association has lined Valencia Street with a heap of soon-to-be-torn-down fliers, requesting that every able-bodied fist-shaker storm City Hall tomorrow and let the Planning Commission know they're not down with “blandly-designed” buildings on Valencia.  So if you want to defend Valencia against this glass-paned bane and preserve our unique architectural character, you best show up to Room 400 tomorrow at noon.  There's a Kentucky Fried Chicken at stake.

Comments (37)

I’m calling bullshit on this one. The neighbor’s released their own plans for the site, which are even uglier.

It seems their complaint isn’t about ugliness at all, but rather about the number of units vs. parking spots. Since the city won’t budge on that issue they’ve decided to complain about architecture as a means of accomplishing the same goal.

More homeowners with high incomes. Isn’t that what we all want? ;)

I personally would prefer more expensive restaurants on Valencia that no one that actually lives in the neighborhood would be caught dead in.

Thank god it’s not a Jack in the Box! No garage pah! It doesn’t look grungy (not 90’s more 16th & Mission grunge) enough. Needs a bar or a garden on the rooftop. New Mission zoning rule.

Last time I checked, we still can’t bring people back from the dead which means we won’t be able to reanimate all the people who built the 2 and three story Victorians everyone seems to care so much about. (never mind the fact that there are buildings from every decade on Valencia and there are a fair amount of 5 story buildings as well. But hey! It’s only the 2 and 3 story twee victorians that matter. right?)

Also, just out of curiosity, if you think this is ugly, what would you like to see instead? People in this city are very quick to say they don’t like something but then can’t say what they would like to see as an alternative.
Personally, I think it’s pretty bland, but not the worse thing in the world. I would rathe see something way more modern and no bay windows. But that’s just me.

Also, just out of curiosity, if you think this is ugly, what would you like to see instead? People in this city are very quick to say they don’t like something but then can’t say what they would like to see as an alternative.

Well, you could click on the link I posted above which answers this very question.

this new thing is “bland” and “ugly” …but the Marsh building is “charming”? That only makes sense if “charming” is a code for “short” and “already there”.

I don’t love it, but so what? The proposition that “everyone nearby gets to decide what your building looks like” seems utterly untenable. How nearby do you have to be? I’m about two blocks away, and goddamn it, I want it to look like Mies Van Der Rohe’s Lafayette Park Townhouses in Detroit:⅓559683796_d34361353c.jpg

As someone two blocks away, how many votes do I get. How many votes are there? 1,000? 20? Where does my voice fit? Should I propose alternatives, like some Philip Johnson residence? The Cartier Foundation in Paris? That would be nice. Should I go door to door seeing what I can drum up the most support for? Or do two loudmouths next door get to decide what the Mission looks like from now on?

Come to think of it, I don’t like two-to-three story Victorians. I want to retroactively have your buildings razed and replaced with things of my liking. I can’t? You own the property? So does the guy with the new building plans. Weird how you get to decide how his building looks, but he doesn’t get to decide how yours does.

+ 10000000000000000000

Happily, the zoning laws don’t agree with you.

I actually think it looks like a great place to live. Lots of light and those bay windows will make for rooms that feel big and are amenable to modern open floor plans. The bay windows also help blend in with the Victorians in the neighborhood (and IMHO living in a carved up shotgun Victorian sucks… I don’t understand peoples attachment except for the exterior appearance).

I get the parking complaint though. The mission long range plan calls for less than one parking space per new apartment and my personal feeling is that’s just dumb. People still need cars to get in and out of the city.

I also understand the height problem. Again, the long range plan is at fault. The max height for new construction is 55’ so every developer submits a plan for a 55’ building in order to maximize profits at the expense of blending into the surroundings. My belief is that the max height should be 55’ feet or the height of the highest adjacent building plus 12’, which ever is less. Possibly slap in an exception to allow a 3 story building next to a one story building.

Wait a second. You think that every unit needs a parking spot? Is it because we’re in America- and we built everything around cars? But you realize that cars are a cost. And sometimes that cost requires you garage them in cheap areas. It’s not reasonable if we’re going to grow like we should, become more dense, which will increase services, the tax base and the fucking selection of sandwiches, that we should allow for a car per unit.

(go back to vacaville with that shit)

The fact is we do rely on cars. Just because you live in a city doesn’t mean you should be confined to it. Now I’m not saying a city should be designed around cars… I pretty much never drive my car around the city. I almost always ride my bike and the rest of the time I take the bus or BART or a taxi, but it’s perfectly reasonable to own a car and use it to get out of town.

If we had public infrastructure to enable access around the state that would be a different story. The unfortunate fact is that no matter how hard we lobby there is still no train to Marin/Santa Rosa or high speed rail to LA, it costs twice as much to take Amtrak to Sacramento as it does to drive two people there, BART to San Jose has been “planned” for decades, etc. I’d be a lot closer to agreeing with you if we got behind all those things, but for the next 20 years I think it’s safe to expect people to get around on 4 wheels and we shouldn’t be blinded by idealism.

So no, I don’t think we should design around cars, but I do think we should design around reality. We should also be working to change that reality.

The problem is it’s a catch-22 – if we keep designing for cars, then there will never be any incentive to make the radical changes needed to live without them.

They should could include at least a few parking spaces, so some units can be bought without parking spaces if desired. If the new residents are forward thinking and don’t want to buy the parking, the HOA can lease them to City Car Share.

So you “don’t think we should design around cars”, but you do think that anyone who moves in to a new residence should be required to spend $50,000+ (the construction/purchasing premium of a garage spot), to accommodate cars. Even if they don’t use one.

And after they’ve spent that money, we should work hard to ensure that the money was spent unnecessarily.


I’m sure all 12 of the Marsh’s regular patrons will be deeply horrified by the new building.

yeah, I remember seeing a line of patrons waiting to get into a performance there. Once. About 12 years ago.

Every time I walk past there, I make a point of reading all of their posters to see if there is ever a single show upcoming that doesn’t sound like the output of a community college writing class populated entirely by overly-earnest hippies, and that I wouldn’t rather stab my eyes out than see. Score so far: zero.

I guess they perform a valuable service by providing a venue for these shows so that the booking agents at other theaters don’t have to read the scripts.

I’ve never been, but I live right down the street and on weekends there are often lines. When I walk past Aquarius Records there are usually only one or two people in there- perhaps we should say fuck that too? Because your logic is basically if something isn’t popular it isn’t relevant- which is really fucking stupid.

Actually, I think that if they can somehow manage to stay in business despite their terrible shows and tiny audiences, then more power to them: I’m clearly not their target audience.

What I don’t think is that they should get a veto on who gets to live next door to them.

I think everyone should get a vote on what goes in next to you. In more density-driven cities they actually sell air rights because of that right. Which seems to indicate that what goes next to you is a valid concern. Also the Marsh is doing fine- they recently opened another theater in Berkeley.

Do I get a vote as to whether or not you should be allowed to live in the City?

I dunno. I’ve seen a lot good shit at the Marsh. But I get it that regional theater isn’t exactly tall cotton.

I honestly don’t have an issue with a new, taller building on the street. I just want something that speaks better to the character of the neighborhood. This building could exist anywhere. I get it, it’s better than a KFC, but developers desperately want to move into this corridor, so let’s challenge them to come up with the next architecture style of San Francisco.

This ain’t it.

(And that first floor retail space is begging for a Quizno’s or a Starbucks.)

Does it concern you at all that your desire is a hopelessly subjective one, that your, and my, and the next guy’s vision of what is aesthetically pleasing may all differ widely? When something is this subjective, there are no standards, and we reach a point (by design, in my opinion), where the squeaky wheels can just say “no” until they get whatever it is they want - which may have nothing to do with aesthetics.

Yup, well said. The problem with this design is not that it is a new building, it is that it is an ugly new building that makes no attempt to fit in with the characteristic feel of the neighborhood.

Actually, most of the buildings on Valencia street are pretty but ugly and boring so it does fit in with the characteristic feel of the neighborhood… or are you talking about your fantasy vision of what Valencia Street looks like in your own imagination?

Butt ugly, not but ugly.

It sure beats Spork

And finally {continuing to shake fist}

While I don’t like the design, it seems to exactly take into account the “nature of the neighborhood,” while adding some vertical height, which provides density we desperately need. Architecturally, it has that quasi-bay window thing that is included for one reason - to echo the bay window norm of Victorian buildings. It also seems to be working that Parisian cafe look on the first floor, which any neighbor would love if [insert artisanal coffee house] were there, but looks like Starbucks to some, because, well, it’s new. It’s very hard to design-in patina.

I would much prefer something that completely ignored the nature of the neighborhood - it’s 2012, dammit. But this is the kind of design that anticipates those kinds of complaints, and panders to them.

Now, if your problem is just height, well, sorry. It’s great that you can afford to live in a city with such low supply, but we need to increase supply so *other* people can afford it. Height makes that possible.

Is no one here making the connection between the paucity of available apartments in the Mission and the construction of new housing? Every single vacant lot on Valencia and Mission should be filled with a 5 story building to accommodate the influx of people to the neighborhood. If people want to keep the area low-density, they should volunteer to live in the high-rises in the Tenderloin or downtown, which exist because that’s where everyone wanted to live 100 years ago.

Yes, these new developments are bland-o-rama, but they’d be even less likely to get built if they had any distinction.

This this this. We should be fucking _applauding_ any time someone comes up with a plan to turn a vacant lot, parking lot or single-story retail building into multi-level mixed-use housing.

Nice! Hopefully they’ll be successful in keeping this eyesore out of the neighborhood!

Haw haw haw. Fuck you KFC.

New building is fine.

The rest of you get over yourselves. There are much bigger battles in life.

That is, if you have one.

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