A second city body unanimously approved one of the largest housing complexes planned for the Mission District on Wednesday, paving the way for its construction in the next few years.
The 330-unit project at 2000–2070 Bryant St. between 18th and 19th streets was passed by the Board of Appeals Wednesday evening after two hours of testimony. That came just a day after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project during a four-hour hearing that saw opponents argue that the development’s environmental review had been inadequate.
On Wednesday, those same opponents went before the Board of Appeals, essentially repeating their testimony from the previous day. That was apparently unconvincing for the five-person body, which voted 5-0 to overturn the appeal.
Nick Podell, the project’s developer, said that construction on the project could begin as early as six months from now, with a possible opening in early 2019.
The project is divided into a 194-unit mostly market-rate building built by Podell, and another affordable housing building of up to 136 units built by the city on land that Podell dedicated to fulfill his affordable housing requirement. The buildings would be separated by a 25-foot-wide public alleyway.
It’s unknown when the city-owned building will be built. It would involve $30 million in city funds, and the Mayor’s Office of Housing has earmarked most of that money for 2018–2019, indicating the affordable project may break ground then.
But the housing office has vowed to expedite the process. Its director said a request for proposal from non-profit housing developers — which would bid to construct the affordable housing building — could go out within four weeks.
Kate Hartley, deputy director of the housing office, said she did not know what the effect of the possible lawsuit would be on the affordable project, however. She said she would have to speak with the City Attorney’s Office to see whether the threatened suit could freeze the process and delay construction.
Spike Kahn, a principal opponent of the Bryant Street project, told the San Francisco Business Times that she plans to sue the project on environmental grounds. Kahn did not return a request for comment.
Peter Papadopoulos, the founder of the Cultural Action Network and another principal opponent of the project, said a suit had not yet been decided.
“There’s no decision as to what comes next,” he said, adding that the United to Save the Mission coalition — a bloc of Mission District non-profit and community groups — would have to discuss whether to continue opposition.
Papadopoulos said he expected the ruling on Wednesday but still challenged the project because the effect of growing market-rate development in the Mission District is not yet known and should be studied, he said.
“We don’t know what the effects of these projects coming into the Mission will be,” he said.
The saga of the Bryant Street project — which was dubbed the “Beast on Bryant” by neighborhood activists — has delayed the project for years. Activist opposition ultimately netted significant concessions from the developer, however, namely a higher percentage of below-market-rate housing as well as arts and blue-collar work space.
In 2014, the Nick Podell Company sought to build 276 units in a single building, with just 44 below-market-rate units — or 16 percent of the total — and no arts or industrial space on the ground floor.
Podell’s plan changed several times, but most significantly in February 2016, when Podell gave a third of his land to the city so it could build up to 136 units of affordable housing there — or 41 percent affordable for the project.
Podell also added light industrial space — known as PDR, for production, distribution, and repair — to the ground-floor, allowing artists and blue-collar tenants to take advantage of the space.
Activists wanted full replacement of the 50,000 square feet of PDR on the block, however, and also pushed for more affordable housing on-site. They appealed the project, resulting in last-minute concessions from Podell on Tuesday that seem to have ensured its passage by the Board of Supervisors.
The project will now have 19,000 square feet of PDR — 12,000 on the market-rate site — with 4,000 square feet of PDR space in the market-rate building held at below-market-rate rents of $2.50 a square foot for 55 years. Podell’s building will have 191 market-rate units and three below-market-rate, while the city building will have between 100-136 affordable units. The market-rate site lost five units by increasing the industrial space.