Two controversial housing projects that have taken many incarnations over the years had appeals before the supervisors Tuesday, and the SF Board of Supervisors approved a 19-unit Castro conversion, but denied a 10-unit Nob Hill conversion.
With the city of San Francisco under the gun of the state-mandated Housing Element that requires we build 82,000 new units by 2031, we probably ought to be more concerned with projects that add hundreds of units rather than nickel-and-dime projects that add maybe a dozen units.
So the big housing news of the week should be the city acquiring five sites to build 500 affordable housing units, or Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s new plan to majorly reduce requirements and fees on new housing development and construction.
But this being San Francisco, we are more likely to get our Patagonia hoodies in a bunch over smaller, market-rate projects with small armies of neighborhood opposition. And neighborhood appeals for two of those were before the SF Board of Supervisors, one of them a 19-unit, six-story group housing project at 18th and Church Street that state housing officials have scolded the city over; and the other a conversion of a single-family home at Washington and Mason Streets into 10 townhouses. Both were opposed by neighbors, and have been for years.
S.F. legislators put the brakes on a project that would replace a single-family Nob Hill home with 10 townhomes after neighbors objected in part because they said the proposed complex would cast too much shadow on an adjacent public recreation center.https://t.co/KjZNV5vyba— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) June 28, 2023
The Chronicle reports that the supervisors denied the 10-unit townhouse conversion, upholding the appeal from neighbors. It was a 7-4 vote, with Supervisors Matt Dorsey, Joel Engardio, Ahsha Safaí, and Catherine Stefani dissenting. The majority of the board supported neighbors’ concerns over Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) soil contamination, and shadows being created over the adjacent Betty Ann Ong Recreation Center’s basketball courts and playground.
“This is the only recreation community center that Chinatown has,” the district’s supervisor Aaaron Peskin said before the vote. “This is a precious, unique public resource that is used heavily by the Chinese community.”
Supervisor Myrna Melgar agreed that the soil toxins were alarming. “There are little kids playing in the playground,” she said Tuesday. “I think this is unusual, and I want us to take these things seriously.”
OPINION: "After a fleeting moment of reason on housing, San Francisco supervisors are back to chasing shadows. California needs to intervene." https://t.co/PVJmOvfwiI— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) June 28, 2023
The morning after the vote, the Chronicle ran a scathing op-ed condemning the supervisors by Bay Area Council vice president Louis Mirante (in the Chron's second pro-YIMBY, anti-supervisor op-ed in the last three days). Mirante wrote that the supervisors “made the decision to stall yet another housing project for superficial reasons — an indication that they aren’t serious about their grand plan to build housing after all.”
Yet Mirante may not realize that on the very next agenda item, the supervisors unanimously approved the controversial 3832 18th Street project, blocking a community appeal. The 3832 18th Street project has 19 units, nearly twice as many units as the 1151 Washington Street project they’d just denied.
The 3832 18th Street gained notoriety when a compromise deal brokered by the district’s supervisor Rafael Mandelman removed one floor from the plan, but state housing officials rejected that compromise. The originally six-story plan is now approved.
“I don’t think this is a great project,” Mandelman said before the vote. “The trouble is, I don’t believe this is a fight [with state housing officials] we would likely win.”
So the project with 19 units was approved, and the project with only 10 units goes back to the drawing board. That seems a win from the perspective of adhering to state goals, but either way, these are numbers so small they would not do not represent meaningful progress toward 82,000 units in the next eight years.
Image: SF Planning Department