Noe Valley Voice February 2003

Old House on 24th Street Makes Way for Condos

By Corrie M. Anders

A small, nondescript house across from Bell Market, which has sat forlornly since its owners died, is poised for reincarnation as 24th Street's newest residential-commercial enterprise.

A group of real estate developers purchased the uninhabited property last spring and has filed preliminary plans with the city to demolish the house and construct a four-story, contemporary-style building on the site. The new structure would include ground-floor space for two businesses, four condominiums on the upper floors, and an underground garage with an unusual design, according to the proposal.

The project requires formal approval from the city, and public hearings will be held. But no date has yet been set to elicit the views of nearby residents and neighborhood groups--for a project that could be considerably taller than the adjacent buildings.

For years, until their death, Robert and Evelyn Lunny owned the property at 3953 24th Street, built in 1900. The modest two-story dwelling consisted of five rooms with 1,040 square feet of living space, and was one of the few purely residential properties on the busy block of 24th between Sanchez and Noe. The building's beige-with-blue-trim facade and unadorned windows scarcely drew a glance from passersby.

That may change soon. Last May, the Lunny estate sold the property for $700,000 to investors Jeremiah Cullinane, Denis Cullinane, and Eileen Long, according to city property records.

The developers have filed plans for four dwelling units and two commercial spaces located on the ground floor at the back of the building, said city planner Dan Sirois.

As envisioned, the building would rise four stories, but the top floor would be set back to reduce its visual bulk from 24th Street. The buildings on either side--Tien Fu Chinese Restaurant and Colorcrane Arts--are two stories tall, although there are several three-story buildings in the block, on the same side of the street.

The maximum height for buildings in the area is 40 feet--which is the approximate elevation of the planned structure.

The new building also would have underground garage space, accessed from 24th Street, for four vehicles. Motorists would drive into the building, and a car elevator would take their vehicles down to their parking spaces.

"I've never seen it before," Sirois said about the design of the car elevator for residential use.

Before they can proceed, the developers will be required to seek additional permits.

"We identified that they need a conditional-use permit to demolish a residential unit on the second floor," Sirois said. An application for that permit so far has not been filed, he said.

"There is still opportunity for discussion about design, evaluation of materials, and that kind of thing," Sirois said. "Nothing is set in stone. We've got a basic concept right now, and we'll be working with the project sponsors to refine it."

Public hearings will be scheduled once all pertinent permits have been requested, Sirois said.

Long, who is also a realty agent with B.J. Droubi Real Estate, said the new owners plan to present their course of action to local residents and civic organizations. But it would be "premature" to do so now, she said.

"It all depends on what [the] Planning [Department] says and what guidelines they give us," said Long. "At that point, we can work with our architect and then go to neighborhood organizations and say, 'This is what we propose.'"

"We'd definitely be interested in the plans," said Jeannene Przyblyski of the residents' group Friends of Noe Valley. "The 24th Street corridor is our most important shopping and congregating area. We would certainly hope the project sponsors would contact the neighborhood groups to share their plan."

In the past, local groups have cast a critical eye upon commercial and residential endeavors they consider out of character with other neighborhood buildings.

Long said the investors had not determined what prices they would ask for the condos, what type of businesses would get the commercial space, nor what architectural style the new building would ultimately have. But clues might be gleaned from another project in Noe Valley that she was recently associated with.

The building, located at 1005 Noe Street near 23rd Street, is modern in design and consists of three large condo units. One of those units sold in December for $1,065,000, and another is listed for sale at $949,000. h