Save the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage!



March 2, 2024

On February 22, the Planning Commission rejected our plan to preserve the two conjoined Valley Street earthquake cottages, by a unanimous vote of 5-0. Instead, they approved the real estate speculator's plan for the property -- a plan that will, in the words of SF Heritage President Woody LaBounty, "destroy their visual integrity and recognition as 1906 earthquake relief cottages."

We are of course working on an appeal of this flawed and ill-considered decision.

The hearing that preceded this vote was somewhat surreal. It began with a Planning Department staff report rejecting our Discretionary Review application. This staff report double-downed on their previous written assertion that the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage was "built in 1890," sixteen years before the 1906 earthquake. That incomprehensible anomaly did not even produce a question or comment from the commissioners.

We then made our presentation. This included representatives from SF Heritage, the Victorian Alliance, preservation architect Michael Garavaglia, architectural historian Bradley Wiedmaier, neighbors and others. We had previously submitted written letters and emails of support from the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project, the Rincon Point Neighbors Association, San Francisco Tomorrow, San Francisco Gray Panthers, "Cottage Lady" Jane Cryan, Vicky Walker and John Blackburn from the Bernal History Project, Professor and author Robert W. Cherny, Professor Dell Upton, and former San Francisco Supervisor, California State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp, as well as numerous other San Franciscans and preservationists. Others would have testified at the hearing if the Planning Commission had not stopped allowing remote comment in January.

The only person who testified in support of the real estate speculator's plan was the project architect. The Planning Commission received no letters or emails of support for the project sponsor.

In his somewhat confusing testimony, the project sponsor's architect highlighted a graphic rendition of what he described as our alternative plan -- except that it was not our alternative plan. This was somewhat shameless, especially given that February 22 was George "I cannot tell a lie" Washington's birthday. Mr. Garavaglia pointed out this discrepancy, but it also elicited no comment from the commissioners.

The project architect concluded his presentation  by saying, and we quote, "I completely fail to understand what they are saying... Nothing makes sense in the arguments they are making." Perhaps this stunning line of argument was what won the commissioners to his side.

The only commissioner who spoke at all was Derek Braun. He did not direct any questions to us, but asked a couple of questions of the Planning Department staff. "I do agree," Commissioner Braun said, "with statements that it is hard to understand what the facade... would look like... From the plans it is not particularly clear."

The Planning Department staff response to this was to say "We will have to work with the architect more" on that. That was a pitiful response, especially after ten years of struggle over what the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage will "look like."

But that answer apparently satisfied Commissioner Braun. He then made the motion to deny our Discretionary Review application. His motion was quickly seconded, and then voted on without any comment from any other commissioner. Mostly they kept their eyes down while they voted, shuffling papers in preparation for making a fast exit from the hearing room.

If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the meeting online at https://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/player/clip/45508?view_id=20&redirect=true.  We are the last item on the agenda.

None of this takes place in a vacuum. In recent times the powers-that-be in the City, with few exceptions, have knuckled under to a whole series of new laws and initiatives from the real estate speculation industry, tilting the playing field very much in their favor. Communities are being ripped apart by the construction of ugly, "unaffordable-by-design" new buildings, trashing existing affordable housing, with very little affordable housing built to replace it. Thousands of working class residents have been driven out of San Francisco by impossibly high rents and home prices. The latest real estate initiative -- a massive upzoning of properties to allow the construction of 65 foot and 85 foot and even higher luxury condos in neighborhoods all over town (including up and down Church Street in Noe Valley), is being resisted by many folks, including Neighborhoods United SF.

The ongoing fight to preserve the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage is only a small part of this ongoing struggle, but nevertheless an important marker, because it reveals the grotesque lack of concern on the part of the Planning Commission for the preservation of even historic buildings, much less affordable housing in our neighborhoods.

As we said above, we are working on an appeal of the Planning Commission decision.

Planning Commission & Variance Hearing - Thursday, February 22

Showdown Set: Tales From the Rabbit Hole

Heading into the joint Planning Commission and Zoning Administrator hearing on Thursday, February 22, a number of organizations and individuals have written to the powers-that-be to express support for our Discretionary Review filing and alternative building plan. Our supporters include:

  • San Francisco Heritage
  • Victorian Alliance
  • Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods
  • Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project
  • Rincon Point Neighbors Association
  • San Francisco Tomorrow
  • San Francisco Gray Panthers
  • "Cottage Lady" Jane Cryan
  • Vicky Walker, Founder of the Bernal History Project
  • John Blackburn of the Bernal History Project
  • Professor and author Robert W. Cherny
  • Professor Dell Upton
  • Architectural historian Bradley Wiedmaier
  • Former SF Supervisor, CA State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp
  • Several Noe Valley neighbors
  • Other San Franciscans and preservationists

No one has written in to support the developer's plan.

Sadly, the Planning Department staff is circling the wagons in support of the developer, ignoring the plain fact that the proposed project would render the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage unrecognizable as an Earthquake Cottage -- if it survives at all -- and violates the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.

Normally, the Planning Department staff convenes a meeting with the developer and the Discretionary Review applicant to see if some compromise can be worked out. In this case, however, the planning staff failed to convene any meeting. When asked why, we were told that the developer had not agreed to meet. But that turned out not to be true -- the developer had agreed to meet. It also turned out that the planning staff had met separately with the developer after we filed the Discretionary Review, and told him in an email that our objections are:

"The usual. They are entrenched in their belief and suspicion of the handling of the earthquake shack are not adequate."

The developer then emailed back and said:

"Yes, and his reasoning does not make much sense. His suspicion was that we were going to move the shacks to Richmond and dump them in the bay 'by accident'. We told him the shacks would not leave the site and tried to reason with him, but you are right, he is entrenched in his conspiracy theories."

What balderdash and arrogance! These are the people we are supposed to trust to do right by the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage?

The planning staff then produced a "Discretionary Review Analysis" for the Planning Commission making light of our issues. This "analysis" starts off by stating that the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage was built in 1890 -- sixteen years before the 1906 earthquake. Need we say more about how confused some of the planning staff seems to be?

Other strange things keep happening. On Friday, February 9, the planning staff finally issued the required CEQA determination, finding that the project does not need a full environmental review. Then on Monday, February 12, they rescinded the CEQA determination, and issued a new one. It turns out that the first determination had labeled the project as a "Demolition," which would mean that they would need to conduct a Conditional Use Authorization hearing. So they retracted that and declared the project to be an "Addition/Alteration." No matter that the developer plans to demolish the rear addition to the home, most of which was built sometime before 1938.

Those who have been following this saga will remember that there recently arose a question as to whether or not there might be a third Earthquake Shack embedded in that rear addition. We asked permission from the developer to allow preservation architect Michael Garavaglia to inspect the property. The developer responded with some inconclusive photos, and then declared "We do not want Mr. Garavaglia on the premises." The developer invited the planning staff to take a look, but in the meantime the above-referenced CEQA determination was issued, declaring that the rear addition is "non-historic." But it was not until Valentine's Day, February 14, after the CEQA determination was issued, that the Planning staff was scheduled to go to the property and take a look. We have not yet seen any report from the staff.

Next Thursday, February 22, the day of the hearing, is also a holiday of sorts -- George Washington's birthday -- although the celebration has been merged with Abraham Lincoln's February 12 birthday to create a three-day "President's Day" holiday. It will be interesting to see on Thursday if the developer and the planning staff can live up to Washington's admonition to never "tell a lie." Let's also hope that the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage does not suffer the same fate as Washington's cherry tree.

The Planning Commission/Variance hearing starts at noon, in City Hall, Room #400. We are the last item on the agenda. We expect that it will take an hour or two to get around to our item on the agenda. The Planning Commission stopped allowing remote testimony a couple of months ago. But feel free to attend and say your piece.

Planning Commission & Variance Hearing Set for February 22

Is there a THIRD Earthquake Shack at 369 Valley Street?

While putting together the Discretionary Review application for the upcoming hearing, we spent some time looking at the 369 Valley Street home on Google Earth.

The cottage in front consists of two Earthquake Shacks joined together in an L shape. There is a rear addition behind the cottage, part of which was constructed sometime prior to 1938, another part in the 1980s.

We noticed something that we had not noticed before -- that there is a gabled roof sticking up from the roof of the rear addition, behind the Earthquake Shack Cottage. This gabled roof structure is not shown on any of the developer's plans.

Why would anybody build such a structure? Why isn't it shown on the developer's plans?

Then it occurred to us. Perhaps there is a third Earthquake Shack on the property that was somehow incorporated into the rear addition.

Preservation architect Michael Garavaglia, who has been assisting us, put together this composite photo, illustrating the possibility. The photo on the left is a 1938 aerial photo. The photo on the right is a Google Earth photo:

We wrote to the developer's architect, Fabien Lannoye, and pointed out what we had discovered. We asked that Mr. Garavaglia be allowed to inspect the home.

Mr. Lannoye ignored our request to allow Mr. Garavaglia to inspect the home. Instead he tore apart a wall, took some unclear photos, and then sent us an email stating, in a rather mocking tone, "I am sorry to disappoint you, but there are only two earthquake cottages at 369 Valley St."

Once again, the fact that the developer does not have a preservation architect on his team put him behind the eight ball. The first thing that any qualified preservation architect would have done would have been to break through the ceiling and take a look at the gabled roof structure itself. Earthquake Shacks have a very distinctive roof structure. Mr. Lannoye's failure to make this most obvious examination was puzzling, to say the least.

We wrote back to Mr. Lannoye and pointed out his error. We renewed our request that Mr. Garavaglia be allowed to inspect the home. We also suggested, in addition to inspecting the gabled roof structure, that the underside of the floor, the drywall structures and the exterior wall in the area be inspected.

Mr. Lannoye wrote back one more time. Once again, he ignored our request that Mr. Garavaglia be allowed to inspect the home. Instead, he wrote "I went to check and saw that the roof framing has a more gentle slope than the Earthquake Cottages and the framing is different. It is clearly not an Earthquake Cottage. I sent photos to the Planning Department showing the existing framing."

We, of course, immediately asked Mr. Lannoye to share these new photos with us. That was Thursday, January 25. He has not responded.

One can only ask why Mr. Lannoye will not share his photos of the roof framing with us. Why won't he allow Mr. Garavaglia to examine the property? Is this just laziness, or paranoia, or does he have something to hide? We don't know.

We have made a Public Records Request to the Planning Department for the photos that Mr. Lannoye refuses to share. We will report what we learn when and if we get them.

Let us remember that this is the same developer who initially only reported the existence of ONE Earthquake Shack, even though the cottage consists of TWO Earthquake Shacks. Let us also remember that the developer wanted to demolish the Earthquake Shack Cottage and take it to the dump.

It would be in the developer's best interest to get this matter resolved sooner, rather than later. The National and California historic codes encourage collection of information about historic structures. The reuse of Earthquake Shacks is certainly something worth documenting, in order to add to our body of knowledge about how they were used. If there is a third Earthquake Shack at 369 Valley Street it should at the very least be thoroughly documented.

The developer's lack of cooperation will not put him in good stead when the Planning Commission and the Zoning Administrator hold the scheduled February 22 hearing. It is just one more example of his reckless disregard for the preservation of historic structures.

UPDATE: December 28, 2023:

We have filed an application for a Discretionary Review hearing. This means that the Planning Commission will schedule a hearing on the project, probably about twelve weeks from now, although that is variable. This will be a joint hearing with the Zoning Administrator, who separately has to rule on the variance issues.


In the meantime, the Planning Department staff will oversee some kind of negotiation with the project sponsor. We will see where that goes.

Here is the Discretionary Review application:

Discretionary Review application
Discretionary Review application (369 Va[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [12.2 MB]

Best wishes for the new year.

UPDATE: November 17, 2023:


Real estate speculator John Schrader has shifted tactics, but still wants to try to raise the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage seven feet, place it on top of a whole new living level, and move it forward on the lot. His thoroughly-inadequate "preservation and relocation" plan remains virtually unchanged.

Instead of first going to a variance hearing, he is issuing a "311 Notice" which will give us thirty days to file for a Discretionary Review hearing before the full Planning Commission. The deadline for filing will be December 27, in the midst of the holiday season.

Schrader's excuse for all this is his claim that the Earthquake Shack Cottage is not visible from the street, and that his plan will make it visible. But the claim that the cottage is not visible from the street is thoroughly bogus. Here is a photograph taken from the sidewalk in front of the property on November 12, 2023:

As is readily apparent, the only significant thing blocking visibility of the cottage is the overgrown weeds and foliage.

Back in June 2016, Preservation Planner Justin Greving wrote to Schrader and said:

"I have spoken with Tina [Tam, then a preservation planning supervisor] about your proposal... We are open to raising the existing cottage slightly (no more than 2 feet) to give it more prominent street presence... However, raising the cottage an entire story is not in conformance with the Secretary's Standards as it will drastically alter the existing building's relationship to the street and lot..."

Since then, the planning staff has gradually given in to Schrader's continued pleas to be allowed to try to raise and relocate the cottage, for reasons that seem based more on politics than on good planning.

At one point in this process, the planning staff required Schrader to bring a preservation architect onto his team -- something Schrader should have done when he first bought this historic property. But there still is no preservation architect on the team.

There still is no clear plan for where the Earthquake Shack Cottage is to be stored and protected while the excavation for the new living level underneath is constructed. The preferred building mover has not demonstrated any significant history working with historic properties. The particulars of the rehabilitation plan for the cottage remain vague. The required CEQA Categorical Exemption is still not in place.

These problems are brought into even sharper focus, given that there is a rough alternative plan, first suggested by neighbors, which would leave the cottage essentially where it is on the property. The project sponsor told us at one point that they would be okay with this plan if the Planning Department staff was okay with it. Here is a link to the alternate plan:

Alternate Plan (February 2023).pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [215.7 KB]

This alternate plan would mitigate most of the concerns about the integrity of the Earthquake Shack Cottage, assuming appropriate changes were made to the preservation plan. If Schrader adopted this plan (with some minor changes, primarily removing the large, superfluous roof deck) there would be little likelihood that anyone would file for a Discretionary Review hearing, thus obviating the need for a Planning Commission hearing.

Yet the planning staff has refused to support this alternate plan. Their excuse is that the backyard would be too small, even though it would be larger than the existing backyard and several other backyards on the block. What are they thinking?

Here is hoping that Schrader and the planning staff come to their senses and make some better choices.

We will keep you informed.

UPDATE: May 19, 2023


The variance hearing has been postponed once again. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: May 7, 2023

San Francisco Chronicle
Saving S.F.'s Quake Shacks

This morning the San Francisco Chronicle published an
online article about the fight over the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage.

The article quotes John Blackburn, "one of the city's premier quake shack historians:"

"The history is what this is all about. They helped the working class have their first homes way back then, they represent the resilience of San Francisco, and today there are so very few of them left... We have to preserve them."

The Chronicle article gets the story mostly right, although the real estate speculator who wants to develop the property gets more deference than he deserves. Schrader originally wanted to entirely demolish the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage. Schrader's architect, Fabien Lannoye, is laughingly quoted saying that they have a "plan" to hire an "historical" architect for the project -- they have only had nine years to find the preservation architect that they should have hired at the beginning.

Schrader blames his troubles with this project on the claim that "San Francisco is just antidevelopment." He can't seem to acknowledge the fact that his troubles stem largely from his architect producing a whole series of unacceptable and unworkable plans -- like moving the Earthquake Shack Cottage to the rear of the property and building a monster house in front of it.

The Chronicle article incorrectly states that Schrader wants to raise the cottage "3 feet onto a pad." In fact, he wants to raise the cottage seven feet and make it the second story of a new living level. That would render the cottage unrecognizable as an earthquake shack. The City never built any two-story earthquake cottages.

UPDATE: May 5, 2023

Woody's Earthquake Shack presentation is online now on You Tube:

Check it out!

UPDATE: April 13, 2023



On Wednesday evening, April 12, a packed house at the 4-Star Theatre in the Richmond District heard renowned local historian Woody LaBounty give an illustrated talk on the 1906 earthquake and fire, and the Earthquake Shack Cottages built in the disaster's aftermath to house displaced workers and their families.

The event included a virtual tour of surviving Earthquake Shack Cottages, including photos of the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage. Woody also gave a shout out to our efforts to preserve the Valley Street cottage and make sure that it is not harmed by development plans for the property.

Woody used numerous historical photos and maps for his big-screen presentation. San Francisco built 5,600 cottages which housed over 16,000 refugees in various city parks. Only a few remain.

Woody, who grew up in the Richmond, has a great website -
San Francisco Story - that is full of local "History and Tall Tales." The 4-Star Theatre is also a jewel that has been recently refurbished. It has a 140-seat auditorium on Clement and 23rd Streets.

UPDATE: April 9, 2023


"I am sure to lose close to $1 million, at least," claims John Schrader, the real estate speculator/developer who owns
369 Valley Street. That is what he told Noe Valley Voice reporter Matthew Bajko, as reported in the April issue of the neighborhood newspaper.

Schrader bought the Valley Street property for exactly $1 million in 2014. As stated in the Voice article, Schrader knew that he was buying a property built around an historic Earthquake Shack Cottage. He then hired a consultant to produce a bogus report that argued that the Earthquake Shack Cottage wasn't worth saving and should be demolished. Fortunately, the Planning Department staff said NO to the outright demolition of the historic home.

After the Planning Department staff told Schrader that he needed to preserve the Earthquake Shack Cottage, he tried out a series of schemes that went nowhere, including moving the Earthquake Shack Cottage to the back of the property where nobody could see it, and a so-called "Historic Preservation and Relocation Plan" that preservationists, including the renowned San Francisco Heritage, have blasted as thoroughly inadequate. In addition, all of the immediate neighbors of the property have expressed opposition to the way his building plans assault their air, light and privacy.

Schrader has been presented with an alternative building proposal and preservation plan, shepherded by preservation architect Michael Garavaglia, that would resolve all of the outstanding problems with Schrader's proposal, while allowing him to build a home of nearly the same size and configuration as his current plan.

But Schrader, like a gambler unable to walk away from the table and cut his losses, has rejected any alternative proposals, and instead is forging ahead with his own plan, continuing to throw good money after bad.

Mr. Schrader should think again. Instead of plowing ahead with a plan that he himself declares will lose him a cool million dollars, he should come to terms with the preservationists and the neighbors, and recognize that our alternative is the better deal for everybody. That way Schrader could leave Noe Valley and San Francisco with a relatively affordable and historically significant home for a Noe Valley family, which they and future generations of San Franciscans could enjoy.

SF Heritage.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [241.9 KB]
Noe Neighborhood Council.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [100.4 KB]
SF Tomorrow.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [89.4 KB]
Preservation architect Michael Garavagli[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [303.6 KB]

UPDATE: March 23, 2023



Former State Senator, Judge and San Francisco Supervisor Quentin Kopp has a monthly column in the Richmond Review, the Sunset Beacon and the Westside Observer. His March 2023 column includes the following:

"I'm pleased to report that San Francisco Heritage on January 25, 2023 conveyed a meritorious recommendation to our Planning Commission to preserve as historic 369 Valley Street (in Noe Valley), consisting of two 'Earthquake Shacks' configured as one cottage, to save it from development. I second the effort."

UPDATE: March 16, 2023


The project sponsor has once again postponed the variance hearing. It is now scheduled for Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at 9:30 AM. More soon...

UPDATE: March 14, 2023


A hearing about the Valley Street project is set for Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at 9:30 AM. Valley Street is first on the agenda. Please consider attending this important meeting. It will be held in-person at City Hall in Room 408. There is no remote online or call-in option.

This hearing is technically about the developer's application for a variance to build into the normally-required rear yard area of this home, so that he can build a huge and hugely-expensive 3,731 square-foot single-family house. All of the adjacent neighbors are opposed to the granting of this proposed variance.

There is no good reason that this developer should get a variance if he cannot demonstrate that the Earthquake Shack Cottage won't be harmed in the process.

We hope to see you on March 22.

UPDATE: March 13, 2023

Prompted by community concerns about the deeply flawed preservation plan for the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage, the Planning Department staff asked the developer to make some modest changes to their "Historic Preservation and Relocation Plan."

The developer responded by producing a new preservation plan that is almost exactly the same as the old plan. About the only thing changed was the date. The developer basically ignored the Planning staff requests, as well as the community's ongoing concerns. It is unknown at this point how the Planning staff will react to this slap in their face.

All of the concerns listed below in our January 26, 2023 update remain unresolved.

Here is the letter that preservation architect Michael Garavaglia sent today to the Planning Department staff, once again critiquing the project sponsor's woeful preservation plan:

Preservation Architect Michael Garavaglia
Michael Garavaglia (3-13-2023).pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [303.6 KB]

UPDATE: February 11, 2023

have joined the fight to preserve the Valley Street Earthquake Shack Cottage.

Noe Neighborhood Council
Noe Neighborhood Council (2-9-2023).pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [100.4 KB]
San Francisco Tomorrow
San Francisco Tomorrow (2-9-2023).pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [89.4 KB]

UPDATE: January 26, 2023




San Francisco Heritage, the City's premier architectural preservation organization, sent a letter yesterday to Planning Department staff stating that the plan for the preservation of the Valley Street Earthquake Shack cottage "does not address... national criteria for historic preservation and rehabilitation...

"Preservation Architect Michael Garavaglia," continues the SF Heritage
letter, "has outlined a number of concerns regarding the Valley Street Project Sponsor's April 2022 'Historic Preservation and Relocation Plan.' We believe that Mr. Garavaglia's comments and recommendations are reasonable and valid, including the suggestion that qualified professionals are included in this project."

Preservation architect Michael Garavaglia has highlighted several concerns, including:


  • Attempting to raise the Earthquake Shack Cottage five feet and put it on top of a new structure "changes the overall appearance" of the cottage.
  • "If they materially alter the building -- such as removing most of its historic fabric and change its character by raising the building, it becomes a demolition of an historic resource that would require an environmental impact report..."
  • The failure to "include a description of the rehabilitation work that needs to occur on the actual cottages."
  • The failure to include a preservation architect as part of the project team.
  • The failure to include a structural engineer with experience working with historic structures.
  • The failure to require the building movers to have experience in moving historic structures.
  • The failure to identify where the Earthquake Shack Cottage will be stored while the new structure underneath it is built.
  • The failure to address how the use of heavy equipment, including equipment to excavate thirteen feet of bedrock, will affect the Earthquake Shack Cottage.
  • The failure to even reference the California Historical Building Code.
  • The failure to plan for monitoring of the project by Planning Department staff.


The Planning Department staff promised over a month ago to respond to Mr. Garavaglia's concerns. To date, that response is not in evidence.


You can access San Francisco Heritage's website here.

UPDATE: December 6, 2022


Schrader's latest plan is still to attempt to move the two Earthquake Shacks at 369 Valley Street forward on the lot, raise them 5 feet, and then set them down on a new structure. He wants to demolish everything behind the Earthquake Shacks, do extensive excavation into the bedrock on the site, and build a nearly-4,000 square foot monster home.

The "Historic Preservation and Relocation Plan" that the project sponsor has produced is far from adequate. More on that soon.

Meanwhile, Planning Department staff has rescinded the previous CEQA exemption they had issued. They say they want "to take a closer look at the proposed excavation."

The Planning Department staff has also decided that there is no need for a Conditional Use Authorization hearing, as the demolition of the structure behind the Earthquake Shacks doesn't count as a demolition because there supposedly weren't permits to build it in the first place.

They are talking about scheduling a variance hearing in February, but we will see.

UPDATE: Thursday, October 27, 2022


We have learned that the Planning Commission hearing, most recently set for November 17, has been postponed again. We do not at this point know when the hearing will happen. We said last week that this project was not really ready for a hearing yet, and apparently we were right.

As far as we know, John Schrader of Nova Designs Builds still wants to move the two Earthquake Shacks at 369 Valley Street up off the ground, and then plop them down on top of some new structure farther north on the lot. This is the same speculator who back in 2014 claimed that there was only one Earthquake Shack on the property, and that it wasn't worth saving. Whether or not the Earthquake Shacks would even survive Schrader's tender loving care is an open question. But there is no question that this plan would destroy the visual integrity of these two Earthquake Shacks.

Please click
here to see "Cottage Lady" Jane Cryan's heartfelt letter in support of the preservation of these Earthquake Shacks.

What exactly is going to happen next remains veiled in confusion. Schrader has a plan for a monster single-family house on the table, as well as a "conceptual" proposal for a two-unit building with monster units. The hearing might be a Conditional Use Authorization (CUA) hearing because of the amount of demolition he wants to do, or it might not, depending upon still-unclear calculations. Schrader will definitely need a variance because he wants to build deep into the rear yard area. There is no up-to-date geotechnical study to support the amount of excavation he wants to do.

Please check the website for updates. We will let you know what we know when we know it.


John Schrader of Nova Designs and Builds bought the home at 369 Valley Street in 2014.

The front part of this home is two Earthquake Shacks, one of the few survivors of its kind.  It is a living example of the resolve of San Franciscans to persevere under extreme adversity.  It is officially listed as an Historic Resource by the Planning Department.


Schrader wanted to demolish both of these Earthquake Shacks in order to build a 5,000 square foot monster house. Fortunately, the Planning Department, under serious community pressure, told Shrader in 2015 that he did not have the right to demolish the Earthquake Shacks.


Next, Schrader asked for permission to move the shacks to the rear of the property, behind a planned monster house, where they would be out-of-sight and out-of-mind.  It is questionable whether or not the shacks would have even survived this move.  The Planning Department once again turned Schrader down.


Schrader's next proposal was to demolish one of the Earthquake Shacks, move the other shack to the front of the property, and put it up on a "one story pedestal."  And, of course, build a monster house on the rest of the property.  The Planning Department turned him down again.


In 2017, Schrader came up with a new proposal.  He wants to put the two Earthquake Shacks up on some kind of pedestal, and turn them into a 1st floor "office" over a to-be-constructed "laundry, mechanical and storage basement" of unclear height.  Would the Earthquake Shacks even survive this reconstruction by a real estate speculator who has repeatedly demonstrated his utter disregard for their value to the history and people of San Francisco?


Of course, Schrader's real plan is to stuff a new, 4,000 square foot monster house in the rear of the property, behind the Earthquake Shacks.  Shrader has applied for a variance in order to build in the normally-required rear-yard open space.  The proposed monster house would reframe and overpower the view of the Earthquake Shacks from Valley Street, rising above them in the rear like, well, a monster.  It would also reframe and overpower the rear yards of neighbors on Valley Street and 29th Street.


Schrader laughingly claims in his variance request that his proposed project is "minimal in scale."  He waxes poetic about the need for "a real single family residence, which is much needed in this City."  As if what San Francisco and Noe Valley need is another 4,000 square foot monster house for some incredibly rich "family."


The truth is that Shrader is just another real estate speculator trying to make a few million by trampling on San Francisco's history and neighborhoods.

We have not heard much of anything from Schrader since he made his 2017 proposal.


Now, as reported above, the project has resurfaced and there is a Planning Commission hearing in the works for November 17, 2022. Please stay tuned.


In early October, 2017, all of the neighbors surrounding 369 Valley Street sent a letter to the Planning Department opposing Schrader's latest plans.  The letter, which follows, sums up the situation very well:

We, the immediate neighbors of the two Earthquake Shacks and the proposed building project at 369 Valley Street, are strenuously opposed to the variance requested by Mr. John Schrader and the building plans that Mr. Schrader’s company, Nova Designs and Builds, has submitted along with this variance request.

The requested variance and the plans would substantially and negatively impact the privacy and sunlight of the neighbors on all sides of this property.

We support the preservation of the two Earthquake Shacks on this property.  They are an important Historic Resource and a living example of the resolve of San Franciscans to persevere under extreme adversity.  They are a part of our neighborhood and of San Francisco history.

Mr. Schrader, however, is attempting to pit the privacy and sunlight of the neighbors against the preservation of the Earthquake Shacks.  This is not acceptable.  Both the Earthquake Shacks and the livability of the neighborhood can be preserved with an appropriate building plan.

We believe that if it is Mr. Schrader’s intention to demolish the structure to the rear of the Earthquake Shacks, then there should be no new building in the required rear yard area of this lot.  We feel strongly that the rear yard building code for RH-2 zones should be enforced to protect privacy and sunlight of adjacent neighbors that have not exceeded code requirements.

Further, we believe that Mr. Schrader should not be allowed to increase the height of the home on this property above its current height.  Any attempt to build higher in the rear would overpower the setting and view of the Earthquake Shacks.  We agree with the findings of the Planning Department’s Historic Resource Evaluation Response of May 29, 2015, that:

 “…the distinctive characteristics of Earthquake Shacks, including their unique size, scale, and dimensions, are still identifiable in the subject property… 369 Valley retains a strong sense of feeling as it still retains the aesthetic of a very small-scale cottage that has been fabricated from two Earthquake Shacks.  The dramatic shift in scale in relationship to the surrounding neighborhood is what sets apart the subject property from the neighbors and it is this aesthetic that hints at its unique history…  Although the rear addition does not contribute to the significance of 369 Valley Street, it does not detract from the character as it is relegated to the rear of the subject property and is largely invisible from the public right-of-way.”

We also do not believe that Nova Designs and Builds should be allowed to attempt to raise the Earthquake Shacks up on some kind of pedestal.  We are concerned that Mr. Schrader’s demonstrated contemptuous attitude toward the importance of this Historic Resource might lead to an “accident” during construction that would imperil the integrity of the Earthquake Shacks.

Mr. Schrader knew full well when he bought this property that he was buying an Historic Resource that needed to be preserved.  Any improvements made to the property should respect the historic resource and should be built without variance to code that negatively impacts the property’s immediate neighbors. Mr. Schrader’s misguided and miscalculated business decisions should not be used as an excuse to so negatively impact the neighborhood and the people of San Francisco.

We respectfully ask the Planning Department to disallow the current owner’s requested variance and proposed building plan.



  • San Francisco Tomorrow  (Click here.)
  • Victorian Alliance  (Click here.)
  • Protect Noe's Charm  (Click here.)
  • Neighbors of 369 Valley Street  (Click here.)


  • May 2015  (Click here.)
  • July 2015  (Click here.)



  • A Victory in the Fight to Save the Earthquake Shacks! (June 13, 2015)  (Click here.)
  • Letters from Jane Cryan, founder of the
    Society for the Preservation
    and Appreciation of San Francisco Refugee Shacks.
    2014 Letter
    (Click here.)
    2022 Letter (Click here.)
  • Not One, but Two Earthquake Shacks at 369 Valley Street!  (Click here.)
  • More on Earthquake Shacks...  (Click here.)

181 supporters signed the petition to oppose the demolition of the Valley Street Earthquake Shacks. Click here to see who signed the petition.

Contact us here.

John Schrader, the real estate speculator who bought the home at 369 Valley Street, posted a rambling, disingenuous message on Nextdoor on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Click here to read more.

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