“San Francisco Overlook” Project for Sale

We’ve been following the much-disputed San Francisco Overlook project for some years now.


Crestmont map

This is the planned development at the end of narrow, twisting, Crestmont Drive and was earlier called the Crestmont Hills project.

San Francisco’s Planning Commission approved it in 2013, and we reported on that HERE. Soon afterward, the developers reached an agreement with the Mt Sutro Woods Home Owners’  Association to reduce the number of units from 34 to 29, and reduce the heights of the buildings. An April 2015 report on the real estate website, SocketSite.com, reported that the project was able to proceed.

But it didn’t proceed. Instead, it was put up for sale.

SF Overlook Project on a very steep slope – Google Maps image


  • In May 2015 SocketSite reported that the site was for sale, with the plans for the units (but without building permits).
  • In January 2016 they reported that the asking price, initially $20 million, had been cut to $15 million.
  • And in November 2016, they said the price had been cut to $14 million.

Hmm. According to a November 2016 mailing I received from realtor John Kirkpatrick, homes in the Forest Knolls neighborhood sold for an average of $1.195 million. Forest Knolls homes have 2 or 3 bedrooms and 1 or 2 bathrooms, but the back half of the garage typically offers customizable space. You can put in another 2 rooms and bathroom down there if you want. They’re standalone homes with no shared walls and most of them have a yard. That’s the competition to this project.

Let’s say these 29 luxury homes are priced at about $1.5 million, because they’ll have the latest fit and finish. Other benefits, like a 2-car garage and views are not unique to the development.

That would be a gross take of $43.5 mn, roughly 3 times the asking cost of the land and plans. Is it worth it? I don’t know.


Though there’s an agreement with the Mt Sutro Woods HOA, the project’s  only access runs through the very narrow Crestmont Drive, which has houses on one side and a steep hillside on the other. Though on the map it looks like you could easily link it up to 5th Avenue, the intervening land doesn’t belong to the developer and is also very steep.

The way in to these 29 would-be homes is through the Forest Knolls neighborhood. Fears of destabilizing the mountainside where many homes are supported by concrete piers, fears of added traffic on an already narrow street, fears of potential emergency situations with very poor access, all could fuel more opposition.

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

The House Collapse

collapsed house on Graystone San Francisco Dec 2013

Just over on the other side of the hill, someone was getting a house renovated. They were lifting the whole house to strengthen the foundations so they could build higher. On Monday night, it collapsed and slid 50 feet downhill.

According to the SF Chronicle news report, the owner had wanted to demolish the dilapidated 1400-square foot rental and build a 4200-square foot house instead. He couldn’t get Planning Commission permission for that since it would reduce rental housing stock; instead he went with a major “remodel.” Neighbors fought the plan for 6 years, saying the larger house would be out of keeping with the neighborhood. But in the end, the Planning Commission approved it 5-2.

Looks like the house is totaled and the owner (Port Commissioner Melvin Murphy) will need to demolish and rebuild after all!

The good news: No one was hurt.  Although another building apparently had to be evacuated, I think it was found to be safe and everyone was let back in.  When I went by to take this photograph, they were allowing traffic through on Graystone Terrace, the narrow winding road below the structure.

It did make me think, though, about building on steep hillsides, and collateral risk. Hope whoever finally builds San Francisco Overlook is a lot more careful.

Update and Thanks from Crestmont Preservation

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

A few weeks ago, I’d noted that the Planning Commission approved the San Francisco Overlook project.

Here’s a more detailed note from Dr Sam Sobol of Crestmont Preservation. In summary: The Mount Sutro Woods Owners Association (which is the relevant association for that area of the neighborhood) decided not to file an appeal.

They may take separate action, but for now, the broader neighborhood is not involved. As Dr Sobol says: “If the time comes when we again need to mobilize the larger neighborhood to take action, we will let you know. In the meantime, we want to express our profound gratitude for the support so many of you have shown over the years…

Crestmont-Mt.Sutro-Forest Knolls Neighborhood Preservation Coalition

A note of appreciation and look toward the future
The Planning Commission 7-0 Decision

Bulletin 4-12-13

A month has passed by since the Planning Commission hearing on the San Francisco Overlook project took place. I regret that I was not able to attend as I was on a long planned overseas trip when the meeting, rescheduled from February 14 to March 7, took place.

[Article from the San Francisco Chronicle, March 11, 2013

Mt. Sutro residents fight development ]

I have now had the opportunity to review the entire video of the proceedings and wish to thank all the neighbors on Crestmont Drive, Forest Knolls and the downhill apartments who turned out to support our neighborhood, and especially the two dozen who spoke against the development. Your reasoned, intelligent, articulate and impassioned arguments covered all of the relevant issues, highlighting why this project is so wrong for our community.

[Webmaster: The Video can be viewed HERE.]

Unhappily, the Planning Commissioners seem committed in this era to the growth of housing in the City, particularly in the Western districts, no matter how disruptive or inappropriate to the location or oversized the project. It was evident that the decision had been made and that no amount of community resistance or outrage would reverse that decision, as confirmed by the 7-0 vote to approve the project.

Unwilling to give up without further action, I subsequently explored the option of mounting an appeal to the Board of Supervisors, arguing in part that the project shouldn’t be built without a pedestrian stairway downhill to 5th Ave, both for better access to public transit and for safety as an escape route in case of fire, landslide or other uphill emergency blocking Crestmont. This issue was raised by Commissioner Hillis during the Hearing, and he even brought up the question of eminent domain to force an easement by the downhill property owner which would allow for such a stair walkway.

However, conversations with two of Supervisor Norman Yee’s legislative aides, one of whom explored the issue with the City Attorney’s office, convinced us that such an appeal would be quixotic and have no chance of achieving the 8-3 necessary vote in the Board of Supervisors. Moreover, the unanimous vote of the Planning Commission made any hope of securing sufficient votes among the Supervisors to materially change any element of the project, on any grounds, virtually nonexistent.

We, therefore, did not mount the necessary petition drive to appeal to the Board of Supervisors, which would have required signatures of 20% of all homeowners within 300 ft. of the project’s borders. Nor did the adjacent homeowners’ association, the Mount Sutro Woods Owners Association (MSWOA), submit such an appeal within the 30 day limit.

Does this mean that the project will inexorably move forward in its present form? Not necessarily! There remain other issues which may have to be resolved by mediation or the courts, involving SF Overlook’s failure to abide by certain of the MSWOA’s restrictions and covenants. These issues are, however, within the provenance of the immediate homeowners’ association (of which the developer is a member) and do not directly involve the larger Crestmont Drive and Forest Knolls neighborhood.

If the time comes when we again need to mobilize the larger neighborhood to take action, we will let you know. In the meantime, we want to express our profound gratitude for the support so many of you have shown over the years in our attempt to deter or downsize this development, and in particular those who have helped on so many occasions to distribute flyers and posters, and especially those who spoke out so eloquently for our neighborhood’s values, safety and integrity at the March 7th hearing.

Samuel Sobol, M.D.

SF Planning Commission Approves San Francisco Overlook Project

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

So the SF Planning Commission, following the hearing on March 7, 2013, approved the San Francisco Overlook project.

(See earlier posts – like this one  or this one – for more details.)

I’ll keep this website posted with more details as they come out.

Crestmont Project Meeting Today – 13 Feb 2013

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

You would probably have received this  flyer in your mailbox, but at the request of the Crestmont Coalition, I’m posting it here as well.

There’s a meeting this evening about the San Francisco Overlook project, called by the project owner. Here’s what the Crestmont Preservation Coalition says.

(If you’d like to download the flyer for printing, it’s here as a PDF: Crestmont project Neighborhood Meeting,2-13-13 )

Crestmont Meeting 13 feb 2013
Crestmont Coalition Flyer

Crestmont Preservation Coalition Bulletin

The steep hillside above the planned development
The steep hillside above the planned development

This is a critical time for the San Francisco Overlook issue. (Backstory HERE and most recent information HERE.)

Here’s a bulletin from the Crestmont-Mt.Sutro-Forest Knolls Preservation Coalition:



Crestmont-Mt.Sutro-Forest Knolls Neighborhood Preservation Coalition     

SF Overlook Development     

Too large!!!   Not safe!!!   Help Stop or Downscale!!!

Working to Stop or Downscale S.F. Overlook Development

Update February 8, 2013


The Planning Commission Hearing is scheduled for Thursday, March 7 and it’s time to mobilize! Any further development on this hillside, at the end of the City’s longest cul-de-sac, is fraught with risk and is wrong for our neighborhood. But if construction proves to be inevitable, instead of the proposed 34 unit development, our goal is to get this project downscaled to a smaller number of single family homes as proposed in Alternative B in the EIR (p. 274).

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend two important neighborhood meetings as well as the critical Planning Commission hearing.

  • Wednesday, February 13 at 7 PM – S.F. Overlook Developer Forum. Location: Midtown Terrace Community Room, 280 Olympia Way (at Clarendon Ave.)  Hear the developer’s proposals and express your concerns.
  • Tuesday, February 19, 7-9 PM – All Forest Knolls and Crestmont neighbors are invited to a get-together to discuss issues and strategy for the Planning Commission Hearing. Hosted by Reed Minuth and Megin Scully, 485 Crestmont Drive. RSVP Jeffrey Eade, eadej@me.com, 415-606-4414.
  • Thursday, March 7, 12 Noon – Planning Commission Hearing, Room 400, City Hall.  Everyone opposed to this project is urged to attend the hearing! Those who wish to speak will have 3 minutes to present their arguments against this massive 34 unit development which threatens our neighborhood.  ATTENDANCE IS IMPORTANT!  Additional information and flyer posted on http://crestmontpreservation.org


STOP SF OVERLOOK t-shirts can be ordered here: http://www.zazzle.com/preservecrestmont
We have also posted a link on http://crestmontpreservation.org.

REMINDER: Please display the poster in your window and urge your neighbors to also display the poster! If you need a poster, please email info@crestmontpreservation.org.

Sam Sobol
Working to preserve our neighborhood