Full House Frenzy

In the latest episode of Full House, Laurel Heights is at odds with Hollywood over zoning laws and the role of social media.

(Jessica Christian)

The Full House is actually empty. No one currently lives at the Broderick Street residence, whose exterior appeared in the opening credits of the popular ABC sitcom Full House and its recent Netflix reboot Fuller House. There is no furniture inside, no bookshelves under a stairway niche, and no sign of the inhabitants of this once-normal, single-family residential home.

But the exterior of the house has been recently remodeled into a smack-dab replica of the structure’s TV depiction. Full House producer and creator Jeff Franklin bought the place last year and promptly cut down a tree that concealed the exterior, removed a gate from the front steps, and repainted the facade to the light-brown scheme seen on the television show. You might say he’s made the house “tanner.”

Franklin calls this a “gift to the fans,” who for years have flocked to the Laurel Heights location to constantly snap Full House selfies. Residents of this previously quiet block call it a “major nuisance” of “commercial filming, promotion, and fan visits,” and they’re stuck with an endless parade of hooting and hollering on the front steps, double-parking in their driveways, and trash left behind, a la Dolores Park on Fourth of July weekend.

The Full House house now sees more than a thousand visitors daily on weekends and holidays, and an estimated 250,000 visitors a year. It’s become one of San Francisco’s top unofficial free tourist attractions, particularly after a publicity blitz announcing Franklin was restoring the house to its Full House form and two Netflix promotional videos were shot there.

“This is not what a normal homeowner would do,” neighbor Rudy Muller tells SF Weekly. “No normal residential homeowner is going to buy a house linked to a TV show, then invite fans to come there, then do film shoots for the show. No normal person is going to live in that situation. Which, of course, he doesn’t live there.”

Instead, Jeff Franklin lives in a Los Angeles mansion and has an estimated net worth of $60 million. But there are no zoning laws preventing someone from buying a house they don’t intend to live in. The Fuller House promotional shoots have all been approved by the S.F. Film Commission, and all of Franklin’s modifications are fully within his city code rights.

“There is no change of use being proposed to the home,” Franklin’s spokesperson Evette Davis of BergDavis Public Affairs tells SF Weekly. “The renovations being proposed are routine and similar to what hundreds of homeowners ask to do in the city every day.”

This is true, and plenty of homeowners do remove trees or repaint their exteriors. But they generally don’t do it to replicate a television series location that just so happens to have a Netflix sequel, nor do they so profoundly affect their neighbors’ quality of life.

In addition to the already completed exterior remodeling, Franklin has submitted plans to make interior renovations to the house’s kitchen, living room, and rear deck. Neighbors argue this is an attempt to further the Full House replication and use the property as an unlicensed commercial tourist attraction.

But Franklin insists these fears are unfounded, and he blames one December 2016 Hollywood Reporter interview “where I made some spontaneous comments that were not thought through.”

Those comments disclosed his plans. “It will be a lot more fun for the fans because now the house will look like the Tanners really live there. It’s a gift to the fans, but it’s also fun for me to own it,” he told Hollywood Reporter. The story was picked up and republished by Entertainment Weekly, Business Insider, and numerous other publications.

The mania has been egged on by Fuller House promotions. In a September 2016 Netflix promotional video, actress Candace Cameron Bure (“D.J. Tanner”) declares, “The Full House/Fuller House house has become a landmark. People make that a destination photo.”

The promotions also create the impression that the series was shot at the Broderick Street location — not at the Alamo Square Painted Ladies that also appear in the opening credits, and not at the far-off Los Angeles sound studio at which Full House was actually filmed.

In reaction to all of this, Franklin’s neighbors have delayed the house’s planned interior modifications by requesting a discretionary review with the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals.
Franklin’s spokesperson says these delays are precisely what’s preventing him from turning the place into a normal, livable house.

“The appeal of these permits has rendered the house uninhabitable,” Franklin’s spokesperson Davis tells SF Weekly. “With the house in this state, no one can live there to quickly address things such as litter left on the sidewalk.”

Nevertheless, neighbors continue to contend that Franklin will never live there and just wants a “living billboard” for hordes of fans to take souvenir photos to post on social media.
“Today you don’t have to charge people to make money. Everybody understands that, especially in Silicon Valley,” Muller, the neighbor, tells SF Weekly. “It’s about social media. The more hits you get, the more popular your show becomes.”

San Francisco’s zoning code has no mechanism to prevent a homeowner from modifying their property into a photo-friendly backdrop that, whether intended or not, creates gobs of free publicity for their separate commercial enterprise. Up until now, that’s never been an issue. But Broderick Street residents hope to create that precedent and will make their case at a Jan. 10, 2018 Board of Appeals meeting.

Until then, the house will continue to be besieged by thousands of raucous fans visiting for the holiday season. And neighbors will wonder “whatever happened to predictability.”

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