New Luxury Builds: Modern or Monster?


Atessa Anoshiravani

San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower

This article is part of a series written by this year’s civics students for their Civic Action Project, in which students address and propose solutions for issues that impact our community.

Consider, for a moment, what it would be like to live with the fear that your home could collapse on you at any instant. For the residents of Kensington Way in San Francisco’s West of Twin Peaks neighborhood, that fear might soon become a reality if a proposal to build five luxury houses on the hillside above the road is fully approved by the SF planning committee.

The hillside forms the base of the neighborhood’s famed Edgehill Mountain, a steep hill jutting out of the landscape just west of Mount Davidson, and the area maintains a careful balance of developed housing and open green space for walkers. As a resident of the neighborhood myself, I often traverse the well maintained dirt trail on the Kensington Way side of the hill, sometimes stopping to rest on a log bench beneath the massive trees that grow all along the path. 

Unsurprisingly, new developments on the hill are often disputed as residents argue against the destruction of the mountain’s beautiful natural spaces, but the Kensington Way proposal’s objections are twofold: while the lovely trees and open space would be greatly reduced by building five new houses, the project also brings specific safety concerns. 

The first safety questions were raised back in 1953, as unusually heavy winter rains dislodged much of the earth that houses in the vicinity required for structural integrity. That year, one house tumbled down the hill, literally falling off of its foundations and collapsing onto the land below. Kensington Way residents, whose houses are positioned directly below the proposed building site, fear not only the long term possibilities of houses collapsing, but also raise immediate concerns about safety during construction.

Notoriously steep and rocky, the hillside will require extensive excavation in order to prepare the site for construction. With past rockslides already causing anxiety in the neighborhood, the residents know that further removal of rock could trigger a devastating landslide, spilling heavy debris down the hillside to the multiple houses across the road.

The residents have been lobbying against the project for a number of months, setting up a campaign to “Save Edgehill Mountain from monster houses”, as their lawn signs proclaim. It’s important, as citizens of the Bay Area, to help them in their fight. The government needs to be held accountable for addressing its constituents’ demands, and the neighbors of Kensington Way deserve help amplifying their appeals to prevent this and any future developments of the hillside. SF planning should be making choices to protect residents, but their decision on the proposal could end up undermining the safety that the committee is supposed to ensure.