The Summit (a.k.a. the Eichler Summit)

Once a tower of controversy and Eichler's dream, meet this legend of 'non-pretentious elegance'

the eichler summitThanks to a swooping silhouette that is visible for miles and a reputation as one of San Francisco's swankiest condominium towers, the Summit remains a legend. But it's a paradox as well, both one of Joe Eichler's best-known buildings yet least acknowledged—because only rarely does anyone call it an 'Eichler.'

"They don't even know it's an Eichler," longtime resident George Gananian says of many residents, "and a lot don't even know who Eichler is." "If they know," says Walter Nelson-Rees, a 13-year owner, "they don't want to advertise it." Eichler, he points out, is seen as unalterably middle class.

The Summit—with 32 stories, including seven of parking; towering 330 feet above Green Street and more than 600 feet above sea level—has more to offer than mid-century chic. Ask any owner—any—what appeals to them most, and the answer comes quickly: "Views." Nelson-Rees and his partner, Jim Coran, look out over downtown, the East Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge through the floor-to-ceiling glass that makes up almost the entirety of the building's skin.

From Bob Long's condo, looking north towards Marin, you can hear the sea lions barking at Pier 39, beyond Fisherman's Wharf. Nearer to hand, the building offers views of the Russian Hill neighborhood itself, one of the city's most charming and historic, containing houses that helped create the Bay Area Arts and Crafts tradition designed by Willis Polk, Julia Morgan, and Joseph Worcester, and an octagonal house from the 1850s—all of which survived the 1906 Earthquake and fire thanks to brave and stubborn (soldiers tried to force them to evacuate) neighbors who fought the flames by themselves. Nearer to hand, the building offers views of the Russian Hill neighborhood itself, one of the city's most charming and historic, containing houses that helped create the Bay Area Arts and Crafts tradition designed by Willis Polk, Julia Morgan, and Joseph Worcester, and an octagonal house from the 1850s. They all survived the 1906 earthquake and fire thanks to brave and stubborn (soldiers tried to force them to evacuate) neighbors who fought the flames by themselves.



summit circa 1960s

The Summit (a.k.a. the Eichler Summit)

Address: 999 Green Street, at Jones Street, atop Russian Hill in San Francisco
Number of units: 112 originally; fewer today
Height: 330 feet tall
Floors: 32 total: 24 residential floors, including two two-story penthouses, atop seven floors of parking
Built: 1963-'65
Designers: Tibor Fecskes, for the office of Neill Smith & Associates. Kinji Imada, of Claude Oakland Associates, handled the interiors
Other Eichler towers: Laguna Eichler (1963) at 66 Cleary Court; Central Towers (1964) at 350 Turk Street; Geneva Towers (1964) in Visitacion Valley demolished in 1998

summit logo

For Eichler, the Summit was more than another real estate venture. It was a dream. And when it was done, he dubbed it the 'Eichler Summit' and moved into one of its two two-story penthouses. The building also proved something of a nightmare, adding to financial problems that contributed to the sinking of Eichler Homes, Inc.

No such misfortune affected the Summit itself. For residents, the building remains a dream, although it has lost many of its modern, Eichlerian trappings. Almost every apartment has been stripped of the standard Eichler mahogany paneling. "They were awful," Gananian says. The original teakwood kitchen cabinetry—forget it. Crystal chandeliers are easier to find than hanging globe lights. And floor plans have been completely altered in many apartments, thanks to interior walls that are non-structural.

Stephen Gomez, of Gomez and Patton Real Estate, a leading broker for luxury condos in the city, understands why buyers would want to modify their new homes. The Summit was built as an apartment house before being turned into a "first generation condominium conversion" in the mid-1970s. "So there's a built-in obsolescence in the bathroom size, the kitchen, the closet space," he says.