One of the things that I love about San Francisco is that it is more a collection of neighborhoods than one big city. We locals take a keen interest in keeping the character of each neighborhood unique. In most neighborhoods, there are associations staffed by volunteers who work hard to insure the character is maintained. They are involved in decisions from the kinds of shops, restaurants and other establishments located in the area to the size, design and any modification of the community’s buildings and homes. One of the services we offer our clients is assistance in working with the Neighborhood Associations and the SF Planning department to gain approval for remodels, additions and the new construction of new homes. An important consideration for our design solutions is to ensure that the aesthetic we propose shows respect for the surrounding locale and a straightforward approach to executing the design. For us at DM+A that change is usually a project.
Through our experience, we’ve learned that the most successful projects cover the following bases: 1) the design team meets with the SF Planning department to review the proposed project scope and impact to the surrounding dwellings.; 2) encourage our clients to attend this meeting to hear firsthand the City’s issues and feedback.; 3) advise our clients to meet the neighbors and introduce themselves to the Neighborhood Association members prior to any plans or documents be filed with the city; 4) host an informal gathering to these folks to show concepts and initial design sketches and respond to any questions or concerns about the project.
Involving the client’s neighbors in the beginning of the design process allows us to address any pressing concerns or requirements; shows respect for the community and can make the permitting process more successful. As with many things in life, a little open dialogue goes a long way.