Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 43 / 23 October 2014
 

Greystar’s SF Castro area housing project set to be approved

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 4.05.24 PMA formerly controversial housing project in San Francisco’s gay Castro district is expected to sail to passage next week when it comes up for a vote at the city’s planning commission.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a March 2013 article, Castro neighborhood groups initially expressed a number of objections with developer Greystar’s plans for an 87-unit rental development at the corner of Sanchez, Market and 15th streets. The project next door to the Swedish American Hall was set to not include any below-market-rate housing.

Rather than include 10 units of affordable housing on-site, Greystar wanted to pay an in-lieu fee toward the city’s affordable housing fund.

Neighborhood and housing activists balked, however, warning the company they would oppose its plans if it did not include the BMR units on-site. With the parcel one of the few remaining to be redeveloped along the upper Market Street corridor, it presented one of the last chances to see BMR units become available in the area.

Eventually, Greystar reversed course and not only agreed to include on-site BMR units but also adopted a national LGBT non-discrimination policy covering all of its properties.  In March gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos introduced an ordinance that would require any national developer wishing to build residential projects with 10 or more units in San Francisco to disclose if they also prohibit LGBT discrimination.

In light of the actions taken by Greystar, the project has won endorsements by many of those who initially threatened to oppose it. According to planning staff, only one adjacent property owner has raised objections to the development.

“This project serves as a testament to how community and developers can work together to achieve common goals. Greystar has gained our support by making a commitment to the community to build on-site affordable housing and by instituting the non-discrimination policy,” Pat Tura, president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, wrote in the residential group’s April-May 2014 newsletter. “This happened because the community made it happen and our future corporate neighbor recognized that to be in our neighborhood they had to be a part of our community.”

In his staff report, planner Michael Smith recommends the project be approved, as it “is desirable for, and compatible with the surrounding neighborhood” and “provides needed new housing” to the area.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 4.07.50 PMThe project at 2198 Market Street consists of a new 4- to 6-story, mixed-use building on the existing 18,830-square-foot triangular lot. It is currently being used by the Linnea condo project further north on Market Street to house its sales office.

Along with the rental apartments, the buildings will include 680 square feet of ground-floor office space on Sanchez Street and 5,130 square feet of ground-floor retail space along Market Street. A 2,500 square foot corner space is being set aside for a new restaurant.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 4.06.29 PMThe buildings, ranging in height from 40 to 60 feet tall, will have a mix of one- to two-bedroom units on each floor, with 51 one-bedroom units and 36 two-bedroom units.

There will be 34 off-street parking spaces and 89 bicycle parking spaces within a basement-level garage accessed from an entrance on Sanchez Street. The project will include a new bulb out at the northeast corner of Market and Sanchez streets and new outdoor seating and lighting (seen in the images at left).

Speaking at a Castro merchants group meeting last summer, Greystar’s senior director for western development Victor Gonzalez described the area as a “kind of a no man’s land right now on that whole mid-block stretch.”

Today the intersection boasts a new condo development at 2200 Market Street known as The Century. On its ground floor will be two locally-owned businesses, a Mexican eatery called Bandidos and a new classic arcade games bar.

The Swedish American Hall and its underground club space Cafe du Nord are being revamped by new operators. Kitty-corner at 2201 Market Street are plans to erect a new 6-story building with nine condos over ground-floor commercial space over a basement parking garage.

Across the street from the Greystar property Forest City Development is building 88 rental units (20 of which will be BMRs) split between two separate buildings at the corner of 15th and Market Streets. It was also formerly a gas station.

The site’s 6,200 square feet of ground-floor retail space is being eyed for a restaurant and a food hall. The planning commission is expected to approve a conditional use permit for the project’s “marketplace concept” at its meeting next week.

The reason Greystar’s units will be rentals and not condos is because it is leasing the lot for 99 years from its owners, the Wong family, which had operated a Shell gas station at the site.

In a letter to the planning commission, Stanley Wong noted that his parents, now deceased, had always wanted to see the property be developed. Lacking the finances to do it themselves, the family sought out a developer, he wrote.

“Our parents had once dreamed of developing something significant on their property. They wanted to build something there, that would remain for their ten grandchildren and the generations to follow, to see and be reminded of what honest hard work could accomplish. Our father always said that if you really apply yourself anything is possible,” wrote Wong. “We really wanted to keep the land in our family to honor our parents and the connection they had to this neighborhood, but we did not have the financial means or expertise to develop a quality building.”

After being introduced to Greystar, wrote Wong, “things just felt right. They shared the same values that our father saw as being important – honesty, integrity, and the ability to work with people.”

The Planning Commission hearings on the Greystar project and Forest City Development’s market hall will take place Thursday, April 24. The meeting begins at noon in Room 400 at City Hall.

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 18, 2014 @ 4:24 pm PST
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