The site of the now vacant former gas station at the corner of 19th and South Van Ness. Photo: Joe Rivano Barros / Mission Local.

Another Mission District gas station will be turned into housing when the former Shell at 793 South Van Ness becomes 58 market-rate units and 15 affordable units as early as 2019.

And if the first meeting related to the project is any indication, the opposition that usually accompanies market-rate housing in the Mission has not yet mounted a full offensive.

Only four people attended a pre-application meeting held Monday night by the project’s developer, Joe Toboni, who is also behind the 27-unit development at the corner of 17th and South Van Ness that just broke ground last week and faced a much more contentious community meeting early last year.

But besides an Inner Sunset resident involved in Mission politics — who left the meeting immediately, saying “I can’t sit in this meeting because it’s an illegitimate meeting without a member of the Planning Department” — the developers were allowed to present their plans uninterrupted.

The next-door neighbors of the development, however, were concerned about the seven-story complex — which is taking advantage of a state law to add two stories above current height limits in exchange for adding additional affordable housing — overshadowing the top of their Victorian, where they occupy the third and fourth stories.

“Two additional stories sounds pretty shitty, and if it affects our views or lighting we’ll be pretty upset,” said one of the neighbors, who wished to stay anonymous at the public meeting. “We bought the third and fourth floors anticipating we would have that view, so this is a pretty drastic change.”

The two next-door neighbors were also worried about their driveway, half of which is technically on the property of the housing complex.

“What happens to our driveway?” one said.

“Basically nothing,” replied Ian Birchall, the principal architect for the project.

“You get to use five feet of his property for your driveway,” said Steve Vettel, Toboni’s lawyer and a prominent land use attorney often representing private developers.

And though Mission activists did not make a showing to raise the affordability question, one of the nearby residents was interested in her future neighbors, asking “How premium are these units going to be?”

Toboni did not give exact prices, saying he would see what the rents at his 17th and South Van Ness project penned out to before deciding on these, but was unabashed about their luxury status.

“They’re going to be high-end,” Toboni said. His development company, the Toboni Group, describes itself as a builder of “luxury development” and has a portfolio mostly consisting of single-family homes

Vettel said the development would be using a state density bonus — rather than the proposed city density bonus —  to up the number of affordable units on-site in exchange for the extra stories. By making 20 percent of its units below-market-rate — instead of the 12 percent required by city law — the project will be able to build 73 units where it otherwise would have built 54. That more than doubles its affordable units from six under the old plan to 15 under the current one.

Toboni originally planned to use the city’s proposed affordable housing density bonus law, which would have required 30 percent on-site affordable housing for the extra two stories. That housing is aimed at a higher income level — up to 140 percent of area median income, or about $100,000 for a single-person household — while the currently envisioned housing will be reserved for those making less than 55 percent of area median income, or about $39,000 for one person.

Because the city law is tied up at the Planning Commission and its future remains uncertain, Toboni decided to begin development using the state law instead.

“The state law is on more stable ground,” Toboni said.

The project will be mostly one-bedrooms at 675 to 800 square feet and two-bedrooms at 800 to 1200 square feet, with two three-bedroom units at 1400 square feet. The market-rate units will be condos owned by Toboni but rented out, while the below-market-rate units will be rentals managed by the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

Two ground floor retail spaces are also planned, one with 494 square feet facing 19th Street, and another with 3792 square feet facing South Van Ness, which could be divided into two spots. A ground-floor parking lot with 41 spaces will occupy the back of the building, and because the complex does away with the curb cuts of the gas station, it will result in more street parking on the block.

The corner at 19th and South Van Ness has been vacant for more than 10 years after the gas station there shut down in 2004. Plans to develop a more modest 29-unit housing complex started in 2005 but were delayed by the 2008 economic crisis.

Since then, its developers have amped up the original project to the current 73 units and are in the process of obtaining a Large Project Authorization for the bigger development. The Planning Commission should weigh in on the project sometime this fall, and if there are no significant delays — never certain in the Mission — construction could begin in 2017 and be finished a year and a half later.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Joe Toboni has no other apartment complexes. In fact, he built a 40-unit complex at 4770 Mission St. in 1989 with mostly tenants who receive Section 8 vouchers.

Follow Us

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. As an immediate neighbor to the project, I say BUILD IT! It’s a sh*thole and has been for a decade. This is the perfect use of this location: high density, close to transit.

  2. It is not a “gas station” as your opening sentence says. It is a blighted, vacant lot, that was formerly housed by a gas station, approximately 10 years ago.

    1. That poorly publicized meeting, held on a holiday, more than one-half mile from the property, without any Planning Department staff presence is the only required public meeting until the Planning Commission has the matter on its agenda.

      Want a real public meeting?

      Ask Joe Toboni:, 415-359-9842.
      Or Ian Birchall, contact for the February 15th Pre-Application meeting:

      The Toboni Group is holding a Pre-Application meeting for a different proposed project for 606 Capp Street:

      606 Capp Street
      Monday, February 22, 2016
      6 PM