The proposed 27-story residential tower on a Nordstrom parking lot that the SF supervisors infamously rejected in October 2021 had its revised plans approved Thursday, along with plans for a long-argued, six-story group housing development near Dolores Park, and a four-story building that has Chinatown residents up in arms.
Even a full 18 months after the SF Board of Supervisors rejected it, a proposed 27-story residential tower proposed that would go on a Nordstrom parking lot at 469 Stevenson Street has served as a poster child for the difficulty of getting housing built in San Francisco. The supervisors’ rejecting that plan due to its earlier environmental impact report brought an unsuccessful YIMBY legal challenge and some angry meddling from Governor Gavin Newsom, but the developer Build Inc. simply went back to the drawing board and submitted a revised version with the same basic design late last year that intended to allay supervisors’ concerns over displacement and potential seismic issues.
Under heavy pressure from state housing officials, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved a trio of contentious developments Thursday, including the infamous proposed 495-unit tower on a Nordstrom valet parking lot in the Mid-Market neighborhood. https://t.co/pIIcTszzbB— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) April 21, 2023
And the Chronicle reports the Planning Commission approved the new 469 Stevenson tower plan on Thursday, along with a six-story group housing development along the Castro-Mission stretch of 18th Street that’s been creating controversy for years, and a Chinatown build-out that had residents upset that it would diminish the quality of a public park.
The biggest of these three developments by far is the 469 Stevenson proposal on the Nordstrom’s parking lot. The project’s developer Build Inc. won approval for 495 units meant to house 1,200 residents, with Build Inc. partner Lou Vazquez telling the commission, “It’s the same project we brought you nearly two years ago now.” (Of course, Planning approved the last version too before it was appealed, by TODCO president John Elberling, who says he will not appeal this version.)
But that same developer Build Inc. just gave up the ghost on the similar 40-story project One Oak, allowing that property to go into bank foreclosure. Maybe that was just unique circumstances to that property, or maybe Build Inc. is not as well-capitalized to complete projects as they were before the pandemic.
Aaaand we're back (short break) talking about 3832 18th Street. Why are we talking about 3832 18th Street? Because previously Planning cut a floor off and @California_HCD scolded them because they weren't following the law https://t.co/fO5rTZkRF7— SF YIMBY (@SFyimby) April 21, 2023
The Planning Commission also approved a six-story, 19-unit group housing project at 18th and Church Streets, a project that has wrought gnashing of teeth for years, and has been described derisively as “another tech-worker dorm.” But this is a unique case where the California Department of Housing & Community Development stepped in and revoked a previous compromise that had lopped off one story. The commission approved the previous larger plan, and if this was the state trying to muscle a local commission, that appears to have worked this time.
And finally, the commission also approved a four-story, 10-unit Chinatown development to replace a single-family unit next to the Betty Ong Recreation Center. Plenty of public commenters complained about detriments to the adjacent park, but commissioners still approved the project despite reservations, as the proposal met state density bonus rules. “It makes me very unhappy that in addition to adding 9 units,” commissioner Sud Diamond said Thursday, “we are very much causing the deterioration of a public asset.”
Any of these three projects could still be appealed to the Board of Supervisors, two have already been appealed before. But it’s unclear whether there is any appetite to appeal to these projects now.
If one afternoon at the Planning Commission can be considered a microcosm, the new state-level push to make cities approve more housing seems to be having an effect. But approving housing is not the same as building housing, and the largest developer in this bunch just backed out of a project when they decided they couldn't afford it. That may be the irony of the new crusade to cut red tape around housing development — right as local regulators start rolling out the red carpet for project approvals, developers may decide that they can’t afford to build these things in a softer market with much higher construction costs than when they started the process.
Image: Build Inc