Upscale S.F. Neighborhood May Get 5,300 Extremely Quiet Neighbors

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San Francisco is a city notorious for its Not-In-My-Backyard neighbors eager to protest anything liable to affect their peace and quiet. The denizens on the east side of Lone Mountain are no exception. They've fought against noisy concerts from nearby Golden Gate Park, driveway-blocking motorists from nearby University of San Francisco, and a new Goldman Institute on Aging facility at the old Coronet Theater site.

But a massive new proposed project slated for the neighborhood just southeast of USF seems to portend no ghosts of planning battles past.

The three-building development proposed at One Loraine Court, comprising 5,300 total units, is moving forward without much apparent NIMBY complaining. This is all the more remarkable considering the project is slated to be built at the end of a residential cul-de-sac zoned for single-family homes. 

Could this lack of NIMBY noise have something to do with the fact that the proposed residents are of a type known to keep very, very, very quiet? In fact the 5,300 units, also known as "niches," are for the permanent keeping of cremation ashes at the Neptune Society Columbarium. 

The project involves the construction of three single-story buildings filed with niches for the storage of cremains of 5,000 deceased people. Another 300 niches will serve as dignified repositories for the remains of pets.

According to this compendium of San Francisco landmarks:

The San Francisco Columbarium, containing over five thousand niches, was designed by British architect Bernard J. Cahill and opened in 1898 in what was then the 167-acre Odd Fellows Cemetery. In 1910, San Francisco passed a law prohibiting cremations, and the crematory was demolished. Later all bodies in the cemetery were relocated outside the city. The Columbarium survived but from 1934 to 1979 it was abandoned to racoons and birds, mushrooms and fungus. The Neptune Society acquired the building in 1979 and over the years has performed a dazzling restoration.

The City's Planning Department just issued a report saying the project will not have a significant impact on the environment, and that sponsors can move ahead seeking permits. The Neptune Society plans to plant redwood trees surrounding the new buildings to hide them from neighbors.


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