Conversion buildings with classic details like exposed timber, brick walls, and steel beams lead the way for the transformation of the South Beach and South of Market (SOMA) neighborhoods beginning around 1990 thanks to relaxation of the city’s live/work building code in 1988.
Loft conversions and construction continued until roughly around the year 2000 when the city again made substantial changes to the live/work building code. While most conversion buildings offer loft-style homes, this is San Francisco where you can generally count on at least one exception to the rule. It’s just in our DNA.
Conversion buildings exist because a savvy developer saw some opportunities in the city building and planning code back in the late 1980s. We’ll spare you the long version, but the short version is that for a period of time it was possible to bypass most of the city’s ridiculously restrictive planning and building code approval process and make homes for people to live in.
As the name implies, conversion loft buildings were once used for something else. This limits possible neighborhoods for these buildings to those that have existed almost since the founding of San Francisco and were also once used for industrial/manufacturing (LPR in today’s planning lingo) purposes. Many conversion loft buildings were used as warehouses back when San Francisco was a town that made a living from trans-pacific and trans-American trade and transit. A few other historic building uses now housing: a brewery, a home for the blind, a pharmaceutical manufactory, and a former Cadillac dealership.
Classic details like exposed timber, brick walls, and steel beams define the typical expectations of a conversion loft. The re-development of these buildings contributed to the transformation of the South Beach and South of Market (SOMA) neighborhoods beginning around 1990. Loft conversions and construction continued until roughly around the year 2000 when the city made substantial changes to the live/work building code effectively eliminated the ability of developers to convert un-used buildings to housing.