The developer of a housing project planned for the northern Mission District pitched a transformative concept for a small industrial street there on Monday, saying he hoped to convert the street into a “living alley” with landscaping, seating, and public art.
Craig Hamburg, a vice-president at the development firm DDG, told a group of seven neighbors who live near the proposed 44-unit project at 235 Valencia St. that as part of the construction, he was pushing to change Clinton Park, a car-lined industrial street, into a pedestrian-friendly avenue.
His plans, which are preliminary, would maintain vehicle access to the scooter shop and other industrial spaces on the street while adding trees, flowers, benches, murals, sculptures, and speed-reducing bulbouts. They would also pay tribute to Loren “Hap” Jones, a member of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame who once had a dealership on the site and may be honored with a plaque in the alleyway.
“We ultimately came to the conclusion that a cool way to memorialize Hap would be a public improvement to Clinton Park — a ‘living alley,’ is what the Planning Department calls it,” Hamburg said.
Nothing has been finalized, however, and Hamburg only presented mock-ups of public art and other alley concepts. The project is still 12-18 months from breaking ground, he said, and would take some 16 months of construction after that. Decisions about Clinton Park’s alley would be made down the road.
At Monday’s meeting, neighbors were largely supportive of the plan for a refurbished alley, but held out one concern — that the street not turn into McCoppin Hub, a nearby park where homeless people often gather throughout the day and that has led neighbors to push for a fence to keep them out.
“Making sure [the living alley] doesn’t promote homelessness” is key, said Kelly Scott Hill of Factory 1 Design, a design studio on Clinton Park. Hill said that McCoppin Hub served as a cautionary tale of a refurbished area that is now worse than what came before it. He did not want to see money spent on a living alley if it went the McCoppin Hub route, he said.
Hamburg, for his part, agreed, saying that because his development firm will also serve as the property manager, it would be incentivized to keep the Clinton Park alleyway desirable to its tenants.
The project is one of many that will alter the northern Mission District by bringing in new market-rate buildings to the low-lying neighborhood near the 101 freeway. At least 218 units in seven new developments are planned for the two-block area between Duboce Avenue and 15th Street and Mission and Valencia streets.
The living alley and project on their own could extend the cafes and restaurants of Valencia Street into the little-used cul-de-sac of Clinton Park. The residential complex sits atop 5,500 square feet of retail space, which Hamburg hoped would be broken up into small shopfronts — like a set of stores at 17th Street and Treat Avenue.
The block is little used by pedestrians. The intersection of Clinton Park and Stevenson Street has seen a proliferation of tent encampments since a fire in 2014 destroyed an arts warehouse on the block. There are no storefronts in the area, sitting as it does between a large Greek Orthodox cathedral, a parking lot, and the burn-out warehouse.
It was also the place where two sheriff’s deputies from Alameda chased and beat a car theft suspect, Stanislov Petrov, in November 2015. They were fired, and a federal suit against them has been filed.
New construction, however, promises to transform the area. A 45-unit project is planned for 344 14th St. at the corner of Stevenson and 14th streets that would replace the parking lot there with a five-story residential complex above a retail space.
Next to that, a three-story, 14,000 square-foot “production, distribution, and repair” space at 1463 Stevenson St. would bring light industry and office space to the middle of the block, along with an underground parking lot.
The Orthodox cathedral next door is under reconstruction and at least one neighbor at Monday’s meeting hoped the developers of that project would speak with DDG to extend the living alley down Stevenson Street.
Around the corner at 198 Valencia St., developers are hoping to build a five-story, 28-unit building across the street from Zeitgeist, though the bar’s concern over the project’s shadow impact recently delayed approval of the project.
The 235 Valencia St. project itself faced little contention at Monday’s meeting. Neighbors hoped to learn more about the shadow impact on their apartments across the street and the impact that more than a year of construction would have on their businesses.
Some asked about security — the building will have surveillance cameras lining the alley. Others about parking — it will have none, in accordance with the city’s transit-first policy for the area.
None mentioned affordable housing, the usual topic of contention at housing meetings in the Mission District. The project will abide by the requirements set forth in Proposition C — 25 percent of its units, 11 units, must be rented at below-market-rate, unless the Board of Supervisors lowers that requirement.
The majority of the units are studios — 22 of them, along with four one-bedrooms. Because the project is under the Market-Octavia Plan for the area, 40 percent of its units must be greater than two-bedrooms, so the project has 13 of those along with five three-bedroom apartments.
All of the units are small, however, which Hamburg said would make them more affordable than market-rate for the bedroom size. He envisioned each bedroom going for between $1,500 to $2,100 — meaning studios and one-bedrooms in the low $2,000s, two-bedrooms going for between $3,000-$4,000, and three-bedrooms between $4,500-$6,000. None of the prices are final, however, given that the project is three years from completion.
Median rent is $1,950 for a one-bedroom and $3,850 for a two-bedroom, according to the real estate website Trulia.
No opposition has yet mounted to the project. Asked whether he was concerned about a fight as the development winds through the permitting process, Hamburg said San Francisco was fertile ground for housing battles but that he hoped residents would weigh the project on its merits.
“Knock on wood,” he said.