Review: Proper Hotel, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Proper Hotel is important for several reasons. When it opened in 2017 in a beautifully restored flatiron building on a still-derelict stretch of Market Street near City Hall, it was the first new luxury hotel to open in the city in years. It also marked the second coming of Brad Korzan and Kelly Wearstler, the visionary developer/designer duo who first made their mark on the hotel world with their Viceroy brand. More Propers are in the works for Los Angeles and Santa Monica (and Austin), and they’ve also opened a luxury residence tower under the brand in Hollywood.

Wearstler was the driving force behind the renaissance of Hollywood Regency style (a vision she cast upon the design world at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills several years before launching Viceroy), but she’s left those days in the dust. Regency is out. Boho chic is in. Wearstler has thrown everything at the walls, and all of it stuck. The hotel’s 131 bedrooms are wallpapered with no fewer than four different patterns, which are made all the more dizzying by the addition of at least 6 more patterns on the bed, curtains, sofa, cushions and tiles.

The lobby feels like the living room of an eccentric former millionaire. It’s a supremely comfortable meeting and gathering place during the day, but at nighttime much of the lobby is overtaken by the hotel’s all-day bistro, Villon, whose business overflows into the living room as the coffee tables are repurposed as dining tables for one of the busiest restaurants in the city. For what it’s worth, the restaurant is indeed very good. Thankfully, the basement gym is stellar.

The rooms, while unquestionably comfortable, are undeniably small and cramped — the exceptions being the corner suites. This is a historic building, after all. The smallest rooms are actually outfitted with bunk beds (ahh, if only to be a kid again). The bed, the pillows, the linens, the mini bar… all fantastic, provided you enjoy insanely-soft beds.

San Franciscans stand in line hours on the sidewalk outside waiting to get into Charmaine’s on the rooftop, whereas registered hotel guests skip the queue and go straight to the bar via a secret guests-only elevator.

Probably the most compelling aspect of this seven-story hotel is the indoor/outdoor rooftop bar, Charmaine’s. San Franciscans stand in line hours on the sidewalk outside waiting to get into Charmaine’s (reservations are available), whereas registered hotel guests skip the queue and go straight to the bar via a secret guests-only elevator without a reservation, something we took advantage of every night of our stay.

There are many things to love about this hotel. The location isn’t one of them. This seedy area adjacent to the Civic Center has long been ground zero for heroin addicts and panhandlers. Seriously formidable bouncers stand guard at the door on Market Street, while the hotel’s main entrance is actually located around the block on McAllister Street, a more low-key corner that feels slightly more gentrified. Although the city has made great strides in cleaning up this neighborhood, the drug epidemic is still on shocking display on the sidewalks and in the subway tunnels directly surrounding the hotel (addicts slumped over and passed out with needles stuck in their arms, for example), something that makes the would-be convenient Civic Center station of Bart/Muni a seriously depressing reminder of just how far this neighborhood still has to go.

Bottom line: Great hotel with small but very comfy rooms. Great rooftop bar. Great service all around. The only real downer is its Civic Center/mid-Market location.

Rates from $200.  1100 Market Street (the main entrance is actually 45 McAllister St.), 415-735-7777, properhotel.com


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