Location: San Francisco, CA
Program:Modern city remodel with spectacular San Francisco views
Area: 2800sf + garage
Images: DNM Architecture
General Contractor: Mario Sarmento
Structural Engineer: Puns & Associates

Hill Street Remodel

San Francisco’s ‘Hill Street’ is aptly named to the point of being understated. This dramatic San Francisco remodel, poised high on a hillside, takes maximum advantage of its sweeping views that extend from the south bay to downtown.

The original house, essentially identical to the neighboring houses below it, was a vintage 1300sf split level house from the early 1950’s in poor condition. The program was to completely remodel the old house and add an additional story above it to capture the amazing views, while remaining within the building envelope permitted under the city’s planning code. The resulting silhouette of the house is almost a diagram of the maximum permitted volume, down to the projections on the front façade that make use of the code’s allowance for ‘bay windows’ in the front setback.

While the lot and the planning code dictated a boxy form aligned to the street, the hill and the views beckoned for a more eastward orientation. The architect took advantage of these seemingly conflicting forces to introduce a strong diagonal into the plan and that subtly orients the view away from the neighbor across the street and towards the city and bay to the southeast. This play of the orthogonal street grid against the diagonal natural orientation permeates the plan and makes for dynamic – and sometimes challenging – spaces.

Functionally, the house includes three bedrooms and three baths with a study, open kitchen/living/dining and a two car garage. The two story master suite features a private rear deck and a mezzanine with roof deck and hot tub that enjoys sweeping views. Its large volumes and constant vertical movement (remember it is called ‘Hill Street’) make the house feel much larger than its mere 2800 sf.

While the house was not specifically designed to be ‘green,’ it incorporates many key components of good green architecture beginning with the re-use of an obsolete structure in an urban location accessible to public transportation and local commerce. Its large shed roof slopes southward and the new owner intends to install photo-voltaic panels. The metal roof is reflective, durable and recyclable with roof R40 blown in cellulose. The stucco is already a durable and recyclable product – is made from natural hydraulic lime rather than the usual Portland cement. This provides a high quality finish, and radically reduces the amount of CO2 off-gassing from cement based stucco. The large openings take advantage of views, but use solar grey tinted glass and insure cross ventilation and natural cooling. There is no mechanical cooling and the hydronic heating system is powered by a highly efficient condensing boiler.

In a city where strong modern residential architecture can be a challenge, 332 Hill Street demonstrates that thoughtful solutions that respond to their local context and add value to a street can still prevail. In the case of this project, the groundwork was laid with good communication and 3D computer visualization. There were no neighborhood objections or public hearings to overcome and the new home sits proudly and gracefully among its peers.