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Twitter co-founder’s attempt to raze, rebuild house is riling up neighbors

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Twitter's co-founder Evan Williams angered neighbors when he submitted plans to rebuild his Parnassus Heights home. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Twitter's co-founder Evan Williams angered neighbors when he submitted plans to rebuild his Parnassus Heights home.

Twitter co-founder Evan Williams hopes to tear down his $3 million home in San Francisco to build an entirely new one for his young family — and his Planning Department application has already exceeded 140 characters.

Before planners even had a chance to review documents for the project, it had amassed a pile of more than 240 opposition letters from neighbors on the quiet, tree-lined Edgewood Avenue in Parnassus Heights. Neighbors became aware of the potential new construction when Williams and his wife, Sara, partnered with architectural firm Lundberg Design to do outreach in the neighborhood.

The opposition paperwork — much of it consisting of form letters with a section for personal comments — expresses fear that a trend will emerge in which older homes are torn down in favor of newer luxury houses.

The home — listed in city records as a “potential historic resource” — was built in 1911 by architect Louis Christian Mullgardt. However, an environmental evaluation application submitted in May by project sponsors argued that extensive renovation work conducted in the 1970s detracted from the home’s historic status.

According to the documents, preliminary plans call for a new “zero net energy” home with solar panels, a green roof and sun-friendly windows. To address common conflicts over obstructing views, the height of the home is set to be lowered by 18 feet to preserve a line of sight to the San Francisco skyline.

Still, some neighbors believe the change will not suit the street.

“This is such a unique property and it adds diversity of architectural interest to the neighborhood,” says one comment from neighbor Elizabeth Wang. “It would be criminal to demolish it.”

Another comment from a neighbor named Anthony said that while he opposes the demolition, he won’t participate in any attempt to “bully” the Williams family as others had intimated.

“The neighbors against this have made it clear when passing out these petitions that they plan to be 
unhospitable and threatening,” Anthony said.

According to city records, Williams bought the property for nearly $3 million in January 2011 through a company called Memsland. If approved, plans call for the new home to be 7,700 square feet, up from its current 5,000 square feet.

In addition to the potential historic status, the hillside project also will need to have an approved stormwater drainage plan and could require special windows to comply with The City’s recently adopted bird-safety standards.

Williams did not return requests for comment, but the owner of the project’s architectural firm said the couple is prepared to undergo months — if not years — of planning procedures.

“They’ve dreamed of being in this neighborhood,” said Olle Lundberg, owner of Lundberg Design. “They’re in this for the long term. I think they’re psychologically ready.”

According to Planning Department spokeswoman Joanna Linsangan, planners are set to review the demolition and construction plans later this month.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com