A rendering of the 14th Street facade of the redevelopment slated for the former Home restaurant space in the Castro. Courtesy Brian Spiers Development.
The city’s planning commission has signed off on the redevelopment of the former Home restaurant space on upper Market Street in San Francisco’s Castro district.
But at its meeting today (Thursday, February 4) the oversight body voted unanimously 6-0 to also have planning staff work with the developer and his architects on refining the design of the proposed building at 2100 Market Street.
A key concern was the building’s facade being too monotonous, with commissioners expressing a desire to see a design worthy of such a prominent corner lot on the city’s main thoroughfare.
“This building is trying too hard to do too much,” said planning commissioner Kathrin Moore, adding that, “you need differentiation in the façade articulation.”
They also asked that two rental units proposed on the ground floor of the development’s 14th Street side instead be changed into retail uses.
“It is rare there on 14th Street to look into someone’s house. You will have dead space,” said planning commissioner Rich Hillis. “There is a big Muni stop there. People are going to be drawing their curtains.”
Overall, the commissioners were pleased with the proposal to turn a vacant restaurant into a modern building with affordable housing on site.
“It is a carefully thought out project,” said planning commissioner Michael Antonini, adding of the design, “I think it strikes a good balance.”
Hillis noted that the building is much better for the site than having an outlet of Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle operate there. At the hearing in 2013 where the commission voted down the eatery’s permit request, Hillis recalled many people preferred seeing housing be built on the triangular lot.
“I think we got to a better place,” said Hillis, who did express a desire to see the design tweaked. “Its bulk and massing works here.”
Planning commission vice president Dennis Richards, a gay man who lives nearby the project site in Duboce Triangle, expressed faith that developer Brian Spiers and his architects could work out the design issues in consultation with planning staff and neighborhood representatives.
“I think with a little more time you will have a complete winner here,” said Richards.
Spiers said he is amenable to swapping out the two units of housing for retail on 14th Street. And he urged the commission not to delay approving the project; a motion to postpone the vote until March 3 failed after the commissioners deadlocked 3-3.
“I’d like get approved today and work with staff on the design,” he said. “I don’t know what I could do different and not getting approved now would achieve.”
The vote is a harbinger for another six mixed-use redevelopment projects slated for upper Market Street between Duboce Avenue and Castro Street that could come before the planning commission this year.
The Arquitectonica-designed 62-unit building at 2100 Market Street would replace the existing corner restaurant space, last operated as Home, and attached parking lot.
The building would mirror a flatiron design with the corner featuring glassed living rooms with dark gray metal guardrails. Both sides of the building would feature pop-out bay windows and Juliette balconies.
The building, which would range from four to seven stories on the sloping parcel, would have six studio units, 31 one-bedroom units, and 25 two-bedroom units. Residents would have access to a 4,960 square foot roof top deck.
Seven of the rental units would be set aside as affordable, and a new restaurant would be sought to operate out of a corner 2,600 square foot commercial space. In a first for the corridor, the building will not have any parking for cars but will include 62 bicycle spaces indoors and another five outside on the Market Street sidewalk.
Spiers, a local developer, also owns nearby bar Lucky 13 and built the cube-like Linea development, designed by the same architects, a block north on Market.
“I feel this proposed project will transform an under-utilized site which is currently an eye sore and attracts bad behavior,” Spiers told the commission.
But as a front-page story in today’s Bay Area Reporter noted, the project is one of several in-fill mixed-use developments proposed for lots along upper Market Street that have sparked concerns about their designs and complaints they include too few units of affordable housing. A number of neighborhood groups have demanded that the new projects set aside 20 percent of their units as affordable above the current requirement of 12 percent on-site.
The Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association has also voiced strong objections to the design of the building for the Home site and wants to see bolder, more modern architecture. It urged the commission to delay voting on the project for at least six weeks in order for Spiers to rework his project to meet the group’s concerns.
“I am not convinced the design is there yet. I feel, if we want to set a precedent, we want to have something ground breaking and impressive so it sets a bar for others to follow,” said architect Tom McElroy, who sits on the DTNA land use committee.
DTNA board member David Troup, the group’s past president, pointed to problems with the outcome of Spier’s Linea project as cause for concern with the design of his latest building.
“Mr. Spiers’s last project Linea we spent a lot of time on. Frankly, we were a little disappointed about how the building once built looked. It was quite a bit different from the renderings,” said Troup.
However, others argued for the commission to approve the project. Several nearby merchants and residents noted the site has been vacant for too long and that it is time for it to be redeveloped.
“For the last five years the site has been vacant and a magnet for elicit activity and covered in graffiti,” said Dylan MacNiven, a co-owner of the nearby Woodhouse Fish Company and operator of the Swedish American Hall up the street. “As someone doing business across the street, we would like to see that building with some activity in it and like to see it soon because it has been a long time. We would like to see something there and something soon.”
Adrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, echoed those comments.
“I urge you not to delay this project. It has to get built,” she said. “We have to get that old building torn down and the new building built very, very soon.”