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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chronicle article features Russian Hill

A 1982 view of Russian Hill & The Summit from Coit Tower. The year before I moved to EssEff
 Our local fishwrap is running a weekly feature on the "Hills of San Francisco" by architecture critic John King. The Summit building (prominently displayed as the background pic for this blog) is featured in the Wednesday May 29 article on Russian Hill. The article was behind a paywall, but the Chronicle has apparently relented and released it to run wild and free across the intertubes. Particularly interesting is the history of how this building and neighborhood set the pattern for neighborhood activism, height limitations, and using CEQA as a tool to block development.
Russian Hill's lofty role in height debate
Russian Hill pivotal in city's debate over building height

by John King
"...While Fontana Towers grabbed the headlines, several modern high-rises rose on Russian Hill itself. The most striking is the Summit at 999 Green from 1965, 32 stories developed by Joseph Eichler where the upper floors flare outward. Next door are four Willis Polk cottages from 1916, which are among the two dozen homes between Broadway, Jones, Vallejo and Taylor streets that survived the 1906 earthquake or were built shortly afterward...The block dominated by Eichler's Summit is now the Russian Hill-Vallejo Street Crest national historic district. At the very top, framing a park with a sloping lawn and aged trees behind a classical balustrade, two modest shingled buildings occupy sites cleared in the 1960s for towers that never got built. They were developed by longtime residents eager to preserve the ambiance. The hill's settled aura comes with a price."
"A brute of a building" - Herb Caen
More pics are featured in John King's summary blog post at the SF Gate free site:
"Russian Hill is the stuff of which San Francisco legends are made. Snug stairways lead to homes by Willis Polk and Julia Morgan. Hyde Street is a shady nook with cable cars rumbling by. Jack Kerouac lived with Neal and Carolyn Cassidy at 29 Russell Place in 1952, and Armistead Maupin reimagined Macondray Lane as the anything-goes Barbary Lane in 1976.

It’s also a terrain of modern slab towers, startling juxtapositions that are all the more startling when you consider that no big buildings have been added since the 1960s. Instead, residents of the hill fought hard to stop anything tall from being added to the landscape after the initial wave — an effort that helped fuel the citywide antipathy to towers in the 1970s and 1980s."
Herb Caen described The Summit as "a brute of building" in his iconic column. I guess one advantage of living in The Summit on Russian Hill, is that I don't have to look at it while enjoying my view.

SF Bay and Coit Tower from The Summit

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