A Tale of Two Mills Act Projects

Garavaglia Architecture (GA) Inc. recently worked with two historic property owners to complete historic structure reports for their Mills Act applications in San Francisco. The Mills Act is designed to restore and preserve historic buildings by giving tax reductions to private property owners for investing in these properties.

The Mills Act historic structure reports that our firm prepared for the Owners of 722 Steiner and 761 Post Street was a necessary part of their bid to receive tax credits for work done to maintain the historic integrity of the structures.  The property tax savings from the Mills Act contract enabled the Owners to preserve and rehabilitate their property, which would otherwise be in danger of demolition, deterioration or abandonment. We performed exterior conditions assessments, archival research, site visits and meetings with the San Francisco Planning Department for both projects.

Project Backgrounds

722 Steiner Street is a Queen Anne style house that’s an instantly recognizable part of San Francisco’s historical and architectural heritage. As one of the Seven Sisters of Alamo Square, this house has been shown in countless motion pictures and television commercials and is part of the famous Postcard Row. The condition of the house had deteriorated over several years, but fortunately was saved from demolition and cared for by conscientious stewards.

photo by Garavaglia Architecture


761 Post Street (The Hotel Maurice)  — one of the many hotels that were constructed in San Francisco as the city recovered from the devastating earthquake and fires of 1906. As young workers flooded the city looking for jobs they also needed inexpensive housing; which facilities such as the Maurice provided. During the 1970’s, as the city declined, the hotel did as well. During recent years due to increased tourism and investment, it has re-opened its doors. The hotel has enjoyed a renovation and rebirth as a Marriott Courtyard.

photo by Garavaglia Architecture


Garavaglia Architecture Summer News

Lorenz Hotel Re-Opening

Groundbreaking Ceremony at the Lorenz. Photo Credit: Mike Luke

Our firm was honored to attend the re-opening ceremony for the Lorenz Senior Apartments in Redding, California on February 19, 2015. The Beaux Arts–style structure — originally a hotel built by Susan Lorenz, widow of gold-mining magnate Henry Lorenz — is an important part of Redding’s history and has served the community for over 100 years.  We began work in 2010 on the 1902 historic unreinforced masonry hotel project to create upgraded, affordable senior-housing units.

GA  prepared a successful National Register nomination for the hotel, as well as the multi-part federal tax credit application. The rehabilitation transformed 78 dated residential senior-housing units without kitchens into 60 studio and one-bedroom units with full kitchens. This work included completing seismic upgrades and updating all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems for the building. The project’s complex mix of requirements included following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, maintaining strict funding source requirements, completing a Probable Maximum Loss analysis and a Capital Needs Assessment, and maintaining senior-resident occupancy while phasing construction.

Lorenz Senior Apartments Exterior Facade. Photo Credit: Mike Luke

2015 Palo Alto Preservation Awards

Garavaglia Architecture received two awards for our historic preservation work from Palo Alto Stanford Heritage on the Rinconada Library and the Forbes House, both located in Palo Alto, California. Principal Michael Garavaglia attended the ceremony at the ballroom of the Lucie Stern Community Center on May 10, 2015.

The Rinconada Library, constructed in 1958, was designed by modernist architect Edward Durell Stone. The iconic building underwent a 4,000 sf expansion as well as a new program room for the library, group study rooms, and new public restrooms. We advised the design team on appropriate conservation and preservation treatments and completed a core historic report that guided the rehabilitation process. The report included treatment recommendations for the steel sash windows, molded plastic light lens that comprised the luminous ceiling — a major architectural feature — and masonry brise soleil repair.

The Forbes House at 564 University Avenue is a colonial style house that served as a single family residence and a rooming house. The historic property had been partially deconstructed with the removal of most exterior finishes, details, windows and hardware. Our work provided recommendations to restore the building to its former condition using original materials, which resulted in a Category 2 on the Palo Alto Historic Building inventory.

California Preservation Foundation Conference

Principal Michael Garavaglia and Project Manager Ambrose Wong visited the 2015 California Preservation Conference in San Diego on April 29 – May 2, 2015. Held in San Diego at the Naval Training Center at Liberty Station, the conference is a networking hub for historic preservation professionals in the Golden State. Conference highlights included pre-conference workshops focused on the California Historical Building Code, plaster casts, and disaster planning, as well as tours of local landmarks and special events.

Mr. Wong attended breakout sessions at the conference to become a certified  Safety Assessor volunteer with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. If needed, he may be called upon to evaluate buildings in the aftermath of a disaster. Congratulations Ambrose!

Credit: Garavaglia Architecture

Bringing Back the Beacon

On Tuesday, October 22, the “Eye of Diablo” was returned to its home at the top of Mount Diablo in a ceremony attended by volunteers, Park Service employees, and, most notably, Pearl Harbor Attack Survivors Mickey Ganitch, Chuck Kohler, and John Tait. The Beacon, as the “Eye” is known, is a rotating light that helped ships and airplane pilots navigate their craft. It was installed at the top of the mountain in 1928, and Charles Lindbergh himself flipped its inaugural switch. The light went dark in 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, for reasons of national safety. The Beacon sat still on its perch on the mountain for more than two decades before WWII veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors began a tradition of broadcasting its light every year on December 7, to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor and to honor its 2,402 victims. Thus, the Beacon came to symbolize not only a significant period in aviation and maritime history, but became an emblem of patriotic pride for Pearl Harbor survivors and military veterans.

The Beacon shines on October 22, 2013, after its restoration and reinstallation at the top of Mount Diablo State Park. Credit: Garavaglia Architecture, Inc.

This important East Bay treasure was not immune to the ravages of time, however, and in 2013 the nonprofit group Save Mount Diablo reached its fundraising goal to restore the light, which suffered from numerous mechanical issues borne from 85 years of exposure to salt air and mountaintop gusts. Garavaglia Architecture, Inc. is very proud to have played a part in the restoration of this important Bay Area treasure. As the preservation consultants hired to oversee the painstaking conservation process, we were thrilled to attend the October 22 reinstallation ceremony to honor the Beacon and its caretakers, who have ensured its light will continue to shine for years to come.

“Our involvement in the beacon project is a distillation of historic preservation architecture. Melding the emotional content of a physical structure with the repair of its archaic system to ensure its survival for many more decades, goes to the heart of why we do what we do. The Beacon project, although straightforward in its need and implementation, holds so much meaning for our culture. It is emblematic of real patriotism and how we now honor those persons seven decades later. It has become a symbol to a group of Americans that fought and died (or survived to tell their story) at Pearl Harbor. It is also a means for volunteers to contribute a part of themselves to this important event and the individuals that are being honored. While the Beacon exemplifies early aviation navigation, it has become a memorial, a crucible of memory. Every year its single shaft of light shines into the darkness, reaching out to the atmosphere, lighting a way for those that came before, and those that might tread that path again. So, on December 7th, look to the mountaintop for the beacon and participate in history.” – Mike Garavaglia, AIA, LEED AP BD+C