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SF developer contests reopening of historic Julius’ Castle restaurant

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Julius’ Castle achieved historic landmark status in 1980 as one of the longest-running restaurants in San Francisco. It was open for business from 1923 until 2007. (SF Planning Department)

Siding with neighbors against a project at the Planning Commission, Oz Erickson has found himself in an odd position for a real estate developer.

Erickson, a principal with the Emerald Fund who has reportedly built thousands of homes in San Francisco since the 1970s, penned a letter last month opposing plans to reopen the historic Julius’ Castle restaurant on Telegraph Hill.

“I have been in the position of the developer of Julius Castle, Mr. Paul Scott, many times,” Erickson wrote to city planners. “I empathize with him greatly.

“I thus hate to take a formal position opposing his project, but since I live at 1400 Montgomery, just up the hill from Julius’ Castle, I would not like to see it reopen as an operating restaurant,” he continued. “The problem is traffic.”

Erickson was just one of a handful of neighbors who wrote to city planners ahead of today’s meeting, where the Planning Commission is scheduled to decide whether Scott, a Telegraph Hill resident who purchased the property in 2012, can move forward with restoring the historic restaurant.

Sitting on a hillside below Coit Tower, Julius’ Castle has been vacant since 2007, though the capital letters that spell the restaurant’s name on the side of the building are still visible from parts of The Embarcadero.

The restaurant, which achieved historic landmark status in 1980 as one of the longest-running restaurants in San Francisco, was open for business from the time it was built in 1923 until 2007.

Scott said in a phone call Wednesday that he hopes to reopen Julius’ Castle within the next year. Neighbors frequently tell him stories about memories made at the restaurant, he said.

Julius’ Castle is a place where couples went on their first date, where neighbors gathered for holidays and the first restaurant that Scott ate at when he moved into the neighborhood a quarter-century ago.

“It’s a special place,” said Scott. “It’s old-time San Francisco.”

City planners have recommended that the Planning Commission grant conditional use authorization for Scott to reopen the restaurant in the landmark building despite traffic concerns.

Julius’ Castle, located at 302 Greenwich St., is at the end of a 180-degree turn on Montgomery Street where drivers have a tendency to get stuck, according to Erickson.

“The proposed restaurant will not adversely affect traffic or parking in the neighborhood,” city planners wrote. “A restaurant operated in this location for approximately 85 years, and the new operations plan proposed by the applicant will help to calm traffic.”

Under the plan, Scott has agreed to discourage restaurant patrons from parking in the neighborhood and have valet drivers park cars in off-site parking. He also said that ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft should alleviate traffic.

Not all neighbors opposed the proposal. More sent letters of support to city planners, including the head of the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center.

Jim Fisher, a Telegraph Hill resident since 1999, wrote to city planners expressing his family’s excitement.

“Our almost 11-year-old son talks regularly about the special nights when we will trot up the hill from our house on Kearny Street to enjoy a drink and a meal,” Fisher wrote.

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