For those readers not from San Francisco, here's a little fact of Bay Area living: We don't have a ton of old buildings around here. Practically the whole city burned down in 1906, and relics of our brief history prior to that are few and far between. So you might imagine how dismayed we were to read today's SF Chronicle story about an 1861 cottage, one of the city's oldest buildings, that's likely to be razed...
The cottage, at 1268 Lombard Street on Russian Hill, has deteriorated to the point where the city has deemed it unsafe. But here's the rub: Since the back door and windows have been removed, leaving the house open to the elements, the building inspector believes the property may have been willfully neglected. By allowing the house to deteriorate to the point where it must be demolished, the owner may have been trying to skirt around city rules intended to protect historic buildings. Once the cottage is bulldozed, what you've got is a vacant lot, which in San Francisco is pretty much like gold.
The development firm that owns the cottage didn't return the Chronicle's calls, and the previous owners claim that although the house was vacant for years, they always secured it. So who knows? The city's investigation may turn up nothing. Either way, this raises some interesting questions.
Should the owners of historic homes be held responsible for keeping them up? How, and to what end? Does it matter if, like this one, they aren't exactly "painted ladies"? What do you think?
Read the full story here.
Photos: Liz Hafalia for The Chronicle