The owners of Fitness SF have the go ahead from planning commissioners to bring forward their plans to expand the Castro gym and add several floors of rental housing to its Market Street property.
The oversight panel voted 6-1 this afternoon (Thursday, February 21) to rezone the 2300 block of Market Street between Castro and Noe Streets in order to place the same building restrictions on it that the city adopted several years ago for the majority of the upper Market Street corridor.
The legislation included a greater height allowance that the owners of Fitness SF have sought for a number of years. Without it they contended the project would not be feasible.
The zoning legislation also included an allowance for making an off-site kitchen used by Cafe Flore a legal use. That part of the proposal received the majority of opposition.
Planning Commission Vice President Cindy Wu voted not to support the zoning package due to disagreeing with the solution that staff proposed to deal with Cafe Flore’s secondary kitchen.
Calls to split the two issues into separate pieces of legislation went unheeded by gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who was the main sponsor of the multifaceted amendment to the city’s planning codes.
In terms of extending the street zoning provisions to cover all of upper Market Street, Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association Vice President Erik Honda said his group opposed the changes at this time.
“We would prefer for the Fitness SF project to be submitted separately,” he said, though he added that the group is “supportive of the plans we have seen.”
Wiener told the oversight panel that he saw no reason to postpone changing the height restrictions until Fitness SF sought approval for its building permit.
“Many properties have been up-zoned without knowing about the specific project that was going to happen there,” Wiener said.
Planning staffer Sophie Hayward told the commission there was “no reason to have two nearly identical districts” covering parts of the upper Market corridor.
No one from the Jackovics family, which owns the local Fitness SF chain, spoke at today’s hearing.
As the Bay Area Reporter has previously reported, since 2009 the family has sought to expand the building at 2301 Market Street at Noe. Their plans call for adding a third floor of gym space with an expanded women’s locker room and another two floors of rental housing.
But the initial attempt to raise the height limit for the property from 50 feet to 65 feet two years ago stalled at City Hall. Previously franchisees with the Gold’s Gym company, the project was further waylaid due to controversy over anti-gay donations made by the gym chain’s founder.
After splitting with Gold’s last fall when their contract expired, the Jackovics have returned their attention to the Castro location expansion project. It has received some initial support due to the family’s promise to include below-market rental units on site; it is expected to number 15 total units.
Although the height limit will be lifted to 65 feet, it is expected that the gym project will come in at 62 feet. The family will need to submit its plans and seek specific support for the project from the Planning Commission.
In a related matter, the family has signed a lease with the local franchisee of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to open one of the national chain’s cafes in a ground floor corner space at the Castro site. But planning staff have indicated they are unlikely to recommend approval for any formula retail permits at prominent intersections along upper Market Street.