San Francisco planning commissioners unanimously voted this afternoon (Thursday, June 20) to change the zoning in the heart of the city’s gayborhood to allow for nonprofits to move into large retail spaces.
As the Bay Area Reporter reported in early May, the code change was triggered by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s plan to construct a nearly 15,000 square foot gay men’s health center at 474 Castro Street. Under the current rules, only businesses are allowed to operate in Castro storefronts totaling more than 4,000 square feet.
Therefore, SFAF’s proposed health center would not be allowed without a change to the zoning.
Planning staff had recommended that the commission adopt the change so that a “neighborhood-serving nonprofit” could apply for a conditional use permit in a space exceeding the stated allowable limit. The supportive vote was not a surprise, as the zoning change had broad neighborhood support and was backed by gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener.
The new rules apply to storefronts along Castro Street between Market and 19th streets, and on 18th Street between Diamond and Noe streets.
The zoning change requires adoption by the Board of Supervisors, which is expected to sign off on it fairly soon. SFAF is currently finalizing its design plans for the new health center and is expected to seek approval from the planning commission sometime in July.
As the B.A.R. noted in a blog post in early June, SFAF officials have been working with Gensler Architects to refine the design for the remodel of 474 Castro Street, formerly home to Superstar Video and a number of medical offices on the second floor.
The latest ititeration calls for “big ass doors” made out of wood that would look popped open as a symbol of SFAF’s desire that the new health center be open and inviting to the community. A set of smaller glass doors would serve as the actual entryway into the building.
The plans also call for a third floor addition to be built and a new balcony over the entrance to Blush wine bar, which will remain a tenant of the building. Once completed, SFAF will merge its gay men’s health center Magnet, the Stonewall Project, which provides drug counseling programs, and the Stop AIDS Project, which focuses on HIV prevention, into the new location.
It has signed a 10-year lease for the building and needs to raise $8 and $10 million to cover the construction costs.