The Sun Is Out, The Sky is Blue
Thank God the rain finally stopped this weekend. The sun gracefully crept out Saturday morning below ominous cloud cover to cheers of gratitude and relief. Our City by the Bay at last emerged wrapped in soft luminescent layers of apricot light with unanticipated shimmering freckles dotting its renowned skyline.
After spending what seemed like an eternity indoors avoiding rain, cold and Omicron, Marshall, Toby and I jumped in the car last Saturday and headed to our sunny, rain-soaked property on Golden Gate. I was relieved to see our sign was still there, hanging on the crusty rusted gate even though the crew had been unable to work for several days due to wind, rain, mud, and standing water.
Favorite House on the Island
From the start of our project, neighbors we had never met asked questions about our intentions as they walked by, alarmed by the site of our historic home slowly dissolving into a ragged heap. Several surprised us by declaring it had been their favorite house on the island. We decided to display a sign informing those who passed by of our vision to restore the property to its original 1927 Spanish Revival roots. We received a great response with many people signing up for the blog.
This image is taken from inside the house facing north to the front yard where a retaining wall will be built on the edge of the shadowed excavated section in the foreground. The hedge at the top of the property on either side of the unseen archaic gate faces the cul-de-sac at the end of Golden Gate Avenue that runs along the ridge of Belvedere Island facing downtown San Francisco.
New Construction Begins
The crew removed the dry rot sections of our venerable home along with its interior plaster, flooring and ceiling materials, exterior stucco, windows and doors and terracotta roof tiles. Recently, a thick L-shaped perimeter wall seen in the shadows behind the ladder was poured at the lower level with two floors of the existing wooden shell still standing above.
After a long period of deconstruction, new construction has been ongoing as evidenced by this formidable 12” thick x 8’ 6” tall Z-shaped concrete corner that serves as part of the footprint for the lower level. The crew excavated 13 ½’ below the main level floor in preparation for pouring the lower-level foundation. The garage has also been demolished due to extensive dry rot and the need to create a path for tractors to access the land.
Batter Board Structure
Marshall is standing on the batter board structure that serves as a reference for measurements of various points on the property. The southern edge of the terrace on the main level is now marked by an unseen red line drawn on the ground, about 6” in front of the batter boards.
Park Lane is a street-to-street pedestrian stairway that runs along the eastern edge of our property. Our 6’ high wooden fence on the right runs halfway down the hillside stairway. The 10’ high ivy-covered painted wooden fence on the left belongs to a 19th century three-level stucco home with a ballroom on the lower level. The stairway is accessed many times a day by local residents who can view the renovation through our lower wire fence as it evolves.
Our property has a 32% grade in the back of the house down to the street below and is difficult to negotiate on foot. After removing 24 fire-prone trees by order of our local Fire Department, we felt a few retaining walls were needed to prevent a landslide. Pictured is the first retaining wall being framed at the bottom of our property.
Through our wire fencing that continues along Park Lane below our wooden fence, you can see the crew working on the 8” thick curved concrete wall sloping from 7’ high in the center to 1’ high on either end.
Blue tarps were laid by our crew on top of the newly installed dirt to protect it from becoming muddy during the rains in December and early January.
This crescent-shaped 100’-wide retaining wall is by far the largest and tallest of the future garden walls to be built on the property. Thanks to our knowledgeable engineer and incredible crew, the bottom retaining wall was elegantly constructed to hold earth in its enormous, curvaceous pocket. The bottom of the property is defined not only by the wall but by a group of ancient Monterey cypress trees through which we can see San Francisco Bay and Sausalito.
Our Muddy Boots on the Ground Crew
Two of our dedicated crew, Henry on the left and Juan Antonio on the right, do an excellent job moving dirt around the property with small tractors, an essential time-consuming task on our steeply sloping lot.
Here is a group photo of our hard-working crew that I took after the Thanksgiving party on the jobsite last November. From left to right – Francisco Ruiz, Carlos Nowell-our foreman, Antolin Gomez, Oscar Gomez, Francisco Morales, Daniel Chacon, and Liandro Diaz, better known as Lalo. We are most appreciative of their diligent service and formidable skills.
Blue Skies for Now
Although we are two months behind on our project due to the challenging weather, I couldn’t be more grateful for the rain that has filled our parched reservoirs in Marin County.
Thankfully blue skies are predicted for the next few weeks. We have our fingers crossed the property will dry out soon so headway can be made quickly. I will have more descriptive images to show you as we progress in the upcoming blogs. The fun will really start when we arrive at the framing, finishes and fixtures stage coming later this year. Please stay tuned.
Happy New Year Everyone and blessings to all of you!
For the love of rain and blue skies too,