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City and County of San Francisco

November 4, 2009 Architectural Review Committee



Meeting Minutes

Hearing Room 400

City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

11:30 A.M.


COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT: Alan Martinez, Andrew Wolfram, Karl Hasz


STAFF IN ATTENDANCE: Tina Tam – Preservation Coordinator, Pilar LaValley, Tim Frye, and Linda Avery – Commission Secretary

(11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.)

1. 2009.0081ACE. (T. Frye: 415/575-6822)

950 Mason Street, the Fairmont Hotel, bounded by California, Mason, Powell and Sacramento Streets. Assessor’s Block 0244, Lot 001 - Request for Review and Comment before the Architectural Review Committee regarding the removal of the existing adjacent podium and tower structure and the construction of a new podium and tower. The project is currently undergoing environmental review per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by the Department (Case No. 2009.0081E) and will require a Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A) for final Historic Preservation Commission approval. The Fairmont Hotel is San Francisco Landmark No. 185. The site is zoned RM-4 (Residential, Mixed) District within the Nob Hill Special Use District and is in a 200-E, 300-E, and 320-E Height and Bulk District.

PRESENTERS: Elisa Skaggs, Page & Turnbull – Project Team; Miles Berger, Architect – Project Team

SPEAKERS: Alice Carey – Representing Neighbors for Historic Nob Hill and SOS Tonga – she expressed concern that the presentation was focused on California and Mason without addressing Powell and Sacramento; would like to see a project that is compatible with the historic district (this neighborhood); listed a number of resources in the neighborhood including the Tonga Room in the hotel and the terraces by Lawrence Halprin that are also in the hotel

Keith Whitening – Representing a number of people for Historic Nob Hill and residents in his building at 850 Powell Street – concerned that the sponsors have not shown views of the “ugly” side of the tower which needs to have appropriate loading docks; expressed concerns about traffic; the project needs a more friendly approach for the proposed residents; and the proposed glass is not compatible with the neighborhood

Bradley Wiedmaier – Architectural Historian – he expressed concern about the Tonga Room and the great pavilion room that sits at the corner over California and Powell with a magnificent lighting fixture that Mario Giadano designed (will the fixture be re-used?); expressed that there many wonderful things about this design, but unfortunate that the eastern front of the building gets less play with the low-rise structure.

ACTION: None – Review and Comment only

ARC COMMENTS: Commissioner Wolfram:

· Would like to see a series of analysis diagrams that analyze the composition of the historic Fairmont and do the same sort of analysis and comparison with the new addition to prove in what way this addition is compatible with the historic Fairmont. That would look at the composition of the building; the base; the middle; the top; the composition of the façade; the punched windows; the repetition of the windows; how much of the repetition is kind of the same window type repeated; the scale of the massing of the façade elements – how long they are; their proportions; the scale of the roof elements; and some analysis of the materials

· There has been no speaking to what makes this compatible

· In looking at the view up Powell Street at the existing tower, that tower has a clear base, middle, top; it has a repetition of windows that are very regular; it has a real simplicity and clarity to it.

· I look at the new design and I don’t understand it at all. It is just a whole bunch of forms that are pushed together. There is no expression of the top of the building; there’s no real repetition of windows; there’s a lot of different windows; different balconies; different door cut outs; the building has pop out in every direction; and I would argue that the original tower for all its flaws is perhaps more compatible than this new proposal

· I’m not saying this needs to look like a historic building, but it needs to have some relationship in terms of the repetition of the elements; in terms of the solids and voids

· In order for this to be compatible it should look like it really belongs in this location adjacent to the Fairmont and not like it could be a tower anywhere in the South of Market or anywhere. Right now it looks like it could be anywhere in any part of the city. It doesn’t really speak to me as being in this extremely important location.

Commissioner Hasz:

· Where the trellis is, I would prefer to have less differentiation in all the elements and maybe a little more consistency which would go to exactly what is already in the neighborhood.

· Something a little more consistent on the number of openings, etc, but also on changing the materials. The trellises are just adding on another thing that is confusing.

· Even the trees down below – above the lower historic setback area – to me it adds an element that simply doesn’t go in the neighborhood. I don’t see trees on all sorts of pavilions throughout that neighborhood.

· The new addition could be a lot more simple on the upper section so that is more uniform and more in going with the rhythm of other towers in the area.

· I enjoy the setback now. I enjoy the lower historic section and how you bookend to that. It makes sense to me.

· I appreciate the project more than what is sitting there right now.

· I think more historic context, and as Andrew was saying, more explanation and maybe a little bit of re-design would help out a lot

Commissioner Martinez:

· I want to make it clear that I didn’t feel that any setback was appropriate because I don’t think that any volume greater than what’s there now is conceivably appropriate. I will never vote for a CofA for anything that’s a bigger volume than what’s there now.

· Really I feel that any appropriate project would have to be of considerably less mass than what is there now.

· The critical views of the Fairmont on the east side are, to me, between Powell and Mason. And it’s sort of telling to me that you cropped the photos so that you couldn’t see that.

· To say that the view is only slightly impacted is to me mind boggling. That seems to me a complete mis-representation of what is there. I’ve been there. You can see most of the east façade from California Street walking along the south sidewalk. To say that this is going to be a minimal impact to that experience of this building is simply not true.

· That being said, I don’t disagree with anything that Andrew has said, but to me, playing with a setback of 20 feet or 40 feet is beside the point. The podium should be lower. The tower if built at all – I would have to be persuaded that the tower is even desirable for it to be rebuilt.

· When you look at what the state of this building was at the end of World War II, there had been an addition on the back. In the ‘60s you could make an argument that a parking garage and a new tower were necessary for the operations of the hotel. We are not talking about adding hotel rooms in this current project. This will be all privately owned condo units. The hotel is actually going to get smaller. So I don’t see how any of this is necessary for the operation of the hotel as a hotel. The entire rationale for building something like this as a support to the hotel is just not there. So if we look at what the hotel needs – new conference rooms; a bigger parking garage – well possibly, but I think you have to look at, as one member of the public said, I think you have to start from scratch and look at what is compatible with this building in terms of form and massing as if only the original structure was there.

· This to me seems like a completely wrong headed approach.

· As far as the details go about the work being done on the existing hotel, I am fine with that.

· The more I look at the canopy at the back, the more I think that the only canopy I would feel comfortable with would be a traditional cloth canopy as opposed to a modern glass permanent one.

· The seismic joints; the linkages; all these seem to be sensitively done

· But to me we need to look at the larger issue, which to me is whether or not a project of this size could conceivably be compatible with this landmark.

Commissioner Wolfram:

· Looking at the view from the corner of Powell and California, about the setback above the historic wall, it isn’t so much to me the setback – the setback seems reasonable, it’s the top two stories of that piece that seem like they shouldn’t be there. I think if you had the same setback but didn’t have those top two stories of townhouses – that to me would be much better. I think it is really the massing of those top two stories seems like its too much massing in that location relative to its proximity. It is the closest piece to the historic building.

· The other thing about that view that is telling to me is that it looks like there are four additions proposed. The composition looks like four separate buildings – the tower that has sort a lump on the south side of it; the podium; the atrium entrance; and then those townhouse pieces. It just seems like there is so much going on

· In the existing building there is just this very straight forward, symmetrical solid volume that in footprint is probably as large as the footprint of the new additions and yet it’s just a single building.

· I think simplifying further would be helpful; and coming back with those analysis diagrams and maybe I could be persuaded that some of the things you have done with the horizontal fenestration do relate with the horizontal rustication of the building. I just would need to see those in more detail.

· What is the status of the Tonga Room relative to the historic resource study of this building?

Tim Frye of Department Staff:

The Department has identified the Tonga Room as a historic resource and we are currently drafting our Historic Resource Evaluation Response to be included in the Draft EIR as part of the project.

Commissioner Martinez:

· I agree with your analysis Andrew in terms of the aesthetics of it. This project has made me appreciate what is there [now] from a modernist point of view – the parts are very clear; they express their function; very straight forward whereas this current proposal lacks any clear order.

· But that being said, I like Andrew’s idea about having a compatibility analysis and also to have more studies done to show more clearly what is really happening with the massing and what this project is doing with the eastern side of the building.

Commissioner Wolfram:

· I picture those analysis documents and they could be like hand-drawn 3-D diagrams. They don’t need to be photo realistic simulations. They really just need to kind of speak to the architectural elements – massing; fenestration; proportions of the elevations – they can be hand-drawn diagrams that help us understand the concepts behind the project and look at its compatibility and analyzing the existing structure.

· I think the south side is two stories too tall. If you took that off I think I would be okay.

Commissioner Martinez

· I think it is four stories too tall

Commissioner Hasz

· I think that is a use idea. I’m not too against it

Commissioner Wolfram

· I think if those trellises’ were gone, it would help. They make it look taller and bigger than it is.

Commissioner Martinez:

· To wrap up – I think we agree on some things and disagree on others.

Commission Secretary Avery:

· Mr. Chair, I think as we continue to try to fine tune our minutes what I will do is include these last set of comments for your review and you can let us know how we have erred and correct us.

(12:15 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

2. 2008.1398A (P. LaValley: 415/575-9084)

150 Otis Street, - the Juvenile Court and Detention Center, west side between McCoppin Street and Duboce Avenue, in Assessor’s Block 3513, Lot 007. Request for Review and Comment before the Architectural Review Committee regarding the adaptive use and rehabilitation of the existing building for low-income housing. The project is currently undergoing environmental review per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by the Department (Case No. 2008.1398E) and will require a Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA) for final Historic Preservation Commission approval. The former Juvenile Court and Detention Home, designed by architect Louis Christian Mullgardt and constructed in 1916, is Landmark #248. The site is zoned P (Public) District and is in an 85-X Height and Bulk District.

PRESENTERS: Kim Piechota, Chinatown Community Development Center – Project Manager for Project Sponsor; Jim Fagler and Kate Rochelle, Gelfand Partners, Architects – Project Team; Chris Meyer, Carey & Co – Project Consultants; Joan McNamara – Mayor’s Office of Housing

SPEAKERS: Bradley Wiedmaier – Architectural Historian – Wants to know what is happening with the bronze lanterns on either side of the door; expressed that it might be more appropriate to keep the recessed main entry rather than have it right on the street reflecting the light; and expressed concerns about the façade.

ACTION: None – Review and Comment only

ARC COMMENTS: Commissioner Wolfram:

· I’m really thrilled to see this project. It is a fantastic use for this building. I congratulate you all for what you’ve done to date

· I would be very curious to see the comments from SHIPO. I’m very curious to see their perspective on the windows because I think that is the most challenging on this.

· Starting at the entrance, I think that the solution that you’ve done is reasonable. I think it is a fairly compatible solution of lowering that piece. I am a little concerned about the logistics about those floor heights and whether once you get sprinklers and other things in that piece that bridges over, whether there really is enough height because 7 feet at the entrance lobby when you are coming in to a building is kind of mean, so anything you can do that – I think you just might have to do some more analysis there.

· I’d be curious to see more drawings of the front door because it is going to be visible.

· You might also consider whether that front piece – whether glass is the appropriate security. Maybe there is a discrete metal grill instead or metal door or grate or something. I’m not convinced that glass is the right solution so maybe there is some alternatives you can look at

· I don’t have any problem with lowering this. It was done at the Conservatory of Music quite successfully – this same accessibility condition

· I think the elevator tower seemed fine. The new design is quite compatible and appropriate.

· I think my biggest concerns are the windows. They are two fold; both the ventilator and the lights.

· I guess I would prefer if there was more of the character of the divided lights that was more similar to the historic views both in the base of the building and above

· I’m curious to see - maybe if we saw some perspective or something - what those ventilators would look like.

· One approach would be to do this where it would look like a New York historic apartment building and everybody would have window air conditioners and it like after-the-fact treatment. It’s like a quasi temporary solution.

· That could be one approach – the window design is designed and it is adjusted for this infill units.

· I’m very sympathetic to trying to get natural ventilation instead of mechanical ventilation. I understand the issues about the cost and you would lose space with ducting and it would start affecting the room plans, but it is a pretty big design feature.

· If we could look at ways to get more of the [divided] lights in, I would prefer that.

Commissioner Hasz:

· On the ventilators, in looking at this on the depth in the setback on the windows, I actually think it might just go away if you put them on the bottom. We probably would never see them. However on the third floor we definitely will especially if they are protruding. I would ask there if we could potentially do the hydraulic system just for that floor so we don’t have look at the mechanics. Do a different solution just for one floor. I don’t think it will throw your budget that crazy. Everything else I think could fly.

· The entrance – I have a different opinion. I agree with lowering it. I’d just take all remnants of stairs out. I think it would look clean and majestic. I think the columns would be accented very nicely.

· For the use this is going to be, out of respect, I do not want a side entrance for the men and women that have served. They should come through the front door. I believe in taking the stairs out.

· Thank you Mr. Wiedmaier in pointing out the light fixtures. Definitely we need to keep those around

Commissioner Martinez:

· I’m ok with the entrance.

· I do think it is a little awkward to have the remnants of the steps on the outside. I think they can be paired back on the outside, but I’d still like to see the shadow of them so that you know it was there. But it does feel a little awkward to have these lumps of stairs.

· I’m fine with the elevators at the back.

· I did agree with Planning about the vegetation at the top, about it being too much and the flair out being too much. With this sort of thing I think the simpler and straight forward the better.

· I agree with the concern that the clay roof tile be salvaged and replaced whenever possible.

· I agree with staff’s recommendation to have a gate instead of a door to address shadow concerns.

· I would like to see a little bit more background on the v-ducts to see if we can around that. I like Karl’s idea about maybe getting around the protrusions. When they are not protruding they are not so bad.

· I share staff’s desire to have the divided lights but I do understand about the cost. When this comes back to the full commission, to be persuaded I would need to see the cost involved; that this is a hardship; that the project can’t bare these divided lights, then I’ll live with it. Our preference is to restore it to what it was as much as possible. Another possibility might be just the divided lights at the lower south façade, especially that upper lantern.

Commissioner Hasz:

· I enjoy the glass in front and find it more inviting than putting a gate. I think it would be lighter, brighter. And pay more attention to the height. People would really see it and open it up.

· I do think there is a possibility of bringing a secondary door further up closer more in historic fashion than where it is now.

· Anyway, I’m fine with the glass door and I would actually prefer it.

· For the use this is going to be, out of respect, I do not want a side entrance for the men and women that have served. They should come through the front door. I believe in taking the stairs out.

Commissioner Wolfram:

· I just want to add that I agree with Commissioner Hasz’ comments about the stairs. I don’t actually like the remnants so much. I think I’d prefer to see a clean new design there. It’s a new alteration and I think having these little pieces left over isn’t satisfactory

Adjournment: 1:16 p.m.

The minutes was proposed for adoption at the Regular Meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday, December 16, 2009.

ACTION: Approved

AYES: Buckley, Hasz, Martinez, Matsuda, Wolfram, Damkroger, Chase

Last updated: 12/24/2009 11:59:57 AM