Courtesy of the San Francisco Planning Department

After negotiations with neighbors, a landlord has agreed to house students instead of parolees at his 15th Street property.

Barak Jolish, whose developments include the Secret Alley on Capp Street and Alley Cat Books on 24th Street, intended to lease the former buddhist monastery at 1731 15th St. to the Recovery Survival Network, a nonprofit that manages nine single-room-occupancy hotels throughout the city.

Jolish changed his tune after a group of neighbors on Albion appealed his building permit last year. He is now in talks with several colleges about providing their students with 52 housing units.

That’s not the only victory for Albion Street neighbors. In response to their concerns that they did not learn about the developer’s plan until the building permit had been issued, Supervisor Scott Wiener in February proposed amendments to the planning code that would trigger neighbor notifications when a landlord wants to add group housing.

Jolish was not required to notify neighbors of his plan because the building was previously used as group housing for monks, and the use technically did not change.

On Monday the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee held a hearing on the proposed amendments.

Wiener, who was involved in the negotiations between Albion neighbors and Jolish, said at the hearing that he doesn’t want to repeat that experience.

“I came away from that, and I think a lot of people did, with a belief that it was better to let people know ahead of time what was going on so that they can have appropriate input, discussion, and avoid miscommunication. I think that this brings it in line with the planning code.”

Projects like Jolish’s are the only cases in which the planning code does not require neighborhood notification, according to staff from the Planning Department.

The agreement will help the Mission’s rental market, Jolish said, because the students won’t occupy housing elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, said that students are cramming into apartments citywide because of an estimated shortage of 50,000 campus-owned beds in the city.

Craigslist has become the de facto student housing policy for colleges in San Francisco, Colen said. That puts thousands of students in competition with other residents, increasing rents and diminishing vacancies.

Wiener’s proposed amendments to the planning code include incentives to developers to build student housing, such as exempting the projects from the inclusionary housing requirement.

Colen said that a similar law in Boston has led to the creation of 1,000 student housing units per year over the last decade.

“That’s how you solve the problem.”

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Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. So absolving student housing of inclusionary affordable means that only students with resources need apply.

    Not to worry, because the Tim Colen who’s Housing Action [sic] Coalition is a developer and real estate financing lobby in real life is more than ready to peddle debt as HAC’s been funded by purveyors of crap mortgages by saddling struggling students with student loans to cover their unaffordable rents.