Several proposed building projects featuring mixed retail and residential uses were recently approved by business leaders in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.
Developers want to build a project with 88 residential units and three to four retail spaces at 2175 Market Street, near 15th Street. The corner is currently the site of a 76 gas station. All of the units would be rental.
Members of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro group are generally skittish about chain retail operations moving into the neighborhood.
Katie O’Brien, of Forest City Development, told the merchants, “We are not seeking conditional use authorization for formula retail,” although she left open the possibility that project backers may do so later.
O’Brien said it was “very important” to her that the commercial spaces would house local businesses. She recalled going to Café DuNord when she was in college, and she said, “I have hella respect for this neighborhood.” Her husband’s been a restaurant owner in San Francisco, she said.
She also said she’s been marketing the development to prospective commercial tenants, and so far two have shown interest.
The apartments would be “a bit on the smaller size,” O’Brien said, with 2-bedroom units ranging from 900 to 1,100 square feet. She said the project would meet the city’s requirement that 15 percent of new units be priced below market rates by placing those units on site.
The project is set to go before the Planning Commission in early September.
Another project approved by MUMC members Thursday, August 2 was a mixed-use building proposed for 8 Octavia Street, at Market Street. The proposed site is a vacant spot across the street from the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.
Mark McDonald, of DM Development, said the “elegant” and “translucent” building would serve as a “gateway” for people coming off U.S. Highway 101, which has a ramp across the street from the site.
The building would have eight stories on Market Street. Along with 49 for-sale residential units with one to three bedrooms, and several courtyards, there would also be room for retail.
“We would really like to bring a local restaurant into this space,” such as the nearby Zunni Café, McDonald said. Below market rate units would be available on site, he said.
They’re hoping to break ground by the end of 2012 and complete it by the beginning of 2014.
Only one MUMC member cast a voted in opposition to the project.
A Planning Commission hearing on whether to grant conditional use authorization for the development is “most likely” set for September 6, according to McDonald.
The final proposed development discussed at the meeting was another proposed mix-use building, this one at 376 Castro Street, near the neighborhood’s iconic rainbow flag.
There would be around two dozen residential units, with affordable housing built on site. The building would also include two to three units of retail space.
The presentation by architect Mitchell Benjamin hit a snag when MUMC President Terry Asten Bennett, general manager of Cliff’s Variety, asked, “How come we’re only hearing from you today?”
Benjamin said that another neighborhood group had been tasked with contacting other organizations in the neighborhood about the project but had apparently failed to do so.
Auto Erotica owner and MUMC member Patrick Batt said that was “an absurd excuse.”
Soon, the meeting took on a distinctly MUMC flair, with remarks that are hard to imagine hearing anywhere else.
One man who offered a complaint about the proposed development referred to the site, which currently houses a gas station, as “beautiful open space.”
Someone else said the plans for the building didn’t say “Castro.”
Benjamin said, “How do you make a building gay, in theory?” He offered that the design could include “brighter, fresher, sunnier” colors.
Andrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District offered some help, saying, “We’re not voting on the color of the building, at this point.”
Shortly after gaining overall approval from MUMC (six members voted against it), the project backers went to the city’s Planning Commission to get conditional use authorization to convert the site from a gas station.
In response to emailed questions afterward, Benjamin said commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the project.