Cliff House

Nibbi Brothers Restores a San Francisco Legend.
  • Cliff House Restaurant_1
  • Cliff House Restaurant_3
San Francisco
23 months
$16.5 million
C. David Robinson Architects
The Cliff House, Dan and Mary Hountalas National Park Service/GGNRA

Project Summary

In January 2003, the ground-breaking ceremony for the newly renovated Cliff House Restaurant marked the beginning of a new era for San Francisco’s famed legend. After 10 years of discussions, fund-raising and community involvement, the Cliff House renovation project entered its final stage – construction.

The first two incarnations of the Cliff House were both destroyed by fire, in 1894 and 1907. The third Cliff House was built in 1909 by the daughter of the 1863 Cliff House owner. Since 1973 the Cliff House Restaurant has been run by Dan and Mary Hountalas, and since 1977 it has been part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).

The scope of work for this project was complex. Three major components of the project were new construction of the Sutro Wing, interior and exterior restoration of the historic building and improvements and additions to the terraces. The Sutro Wing held a visitor’s center, gift shop and deli. It was demolished and replaced with a new 29,000 square-foot, 2-story, steel framed building consisting of the history museum, gift shop and a dining room with views of the Pacific Ocean, Sutro Bath ruins, Land’s End and the Marin coastline.

As expected, restoration and seismic upgrade of the historic building proved challenging. The addition of the southern end of the building was demolished, and complete mechanical and ADA upgrades were performed. Exteriors added in the 1950’s were removed and the entire exterior was abated with a sodium bicarbonate blast and stripped down to the original raw concrete. This building holds the Bistro which joins the dining room by a glass open walled reception lobby and lounge.

Other changes and improvements included three public observation decks with southern, northern and western views and the addition of a passenger elevator from the sidewalk to the Cliff Terrace. Nibbi Brothers worked with the owner, architect and National Park Service (NPS) extensively during preconstruction to ensure that the project would meet the budget, while accomplishing the goals of the owner, architect and the NPS.


  • 2004, San Francisco Business Times, Real Estate Deals of the Year Award