Want to Renovate Your San Francisco Home? Good Luck.

San Francisco city planners take a hard line on renovating the city's stock of historic homes. Homeowners, architects, and even preservationists are saying the department has gone too far.

"Simply owning your home in San Francisco doesn't give you the right to fix it up.

Richard and Cher Zillman learned this the hard way when, in 2000, they applied for a permit to transform a decaying carriage house behind their Western Addition home into a two-bedroom apartment. "We wanted to do something whimsical and fun," said Cher Zillman.

The Zillmans, whose 1885 Victorian is an official San Francisco landmark, hired an engineer and a designer, and submitted a plan that Richard describes as "historic in feeling," and "something nice to look at." The Zillmans were surprised when the city refused to issue a permit. They were especially surprised by the city's reasoning: The plan was too elaborate.

Seven years, three plans and more than $60,000 in architect, design, environmental-review and attorney fees later, the Zillmans are still conferring with city planners. "All we have to show for our project is a lot of correspondence and lines on pieces of paper," Richard says."

Full Story: S.F.'s difficult path to home renovation


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