Taraval House Imperiled

By Jonathan Farrell

Many local residents and members of the neighborhood coalition Sunset Parkside Education and Action Committee (SPEAK) have expressed disappointment that their efforts to save the 113-year-old house at 1420 Taraval St. have apparently failed. 

1420 Taraval photo MJSD SB 8-20

The house at 1420 Taraval St. may be demolished thanks to a ruling by the San Francisco Planning Department allowng the site to be developed for denser housing. The 113-year-old structure is one of the earliest homes built in the Sunset District. Photo by Michael Durand.

The San Francisco Planning Department voted recently to allow development of the site. The house will likely succumb to redevelopment plans, which could result in demolishion.

Woody LaBounty is the vice president of Advocacy and Programs at San Francisco Heritage and one of the founders of the Western Neighborhoods Project. He is one of those disappointed residents.

“Once the staff at the SF Planning Department made a determination that the house didn’t retain sufficient integrity to be considered a historic resource, it was very tough sledding to preserve it,” LaBounty said. “Although SPEAK and neighbors made a very valiant effort.”

San Francisco Heritage is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving San Francisco’s architectural and cultural heritage. LaBounty pointed out that a house such as this “out in the Avenues” is rare.       

The early-20th century design and construction is similar to ones in the Haight-Ashbury area, like the Grateful Dead house at 710 Ashbury St. 

“Unfortunately everyday non-monumental architecture, especially in outlying neighborhoods, (like the Parkside and Sunset) is not as valued by the Planning Department folks downtown,” LaBounty said. “So we need to start working on education and awareness that builds appreciation. Replaced windows or new porch posts shouldn’t doom a historic building to demolition.”

 He said it seems that is how the Planning Department made their subjective decision. 

“It is clear to see just by standing outside and looking at the house that this is an older house with historical integrity to it, the wooden shingles, the gables, etcetera,” LaBounty said.

SPEAK president Eileen Boken expressed disappointment in the ruling handed down despite the efforts she and many others made to save the house. Even the effort to establish a compromise by recommending an accessory dwelling unit in the backyard as a way to add more housing and bring in apparent desired revenue was not persuasive. 

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