Development Delayed As SF Commission Wants Less Aggressive Design

The 12-unit development at 1900 Mission St. on the corner of 15th and Mission streets. Design by Kevin Stephens Design Group.

A 12-unit building planned to replace an auto repair shop at 15th and Mission streets was sent back to the drawing board on Thursday after a unanimous Planning Commission vote to delay a decision on the project and recommend the developer make design changes.

The vote came months after the Mission Economic Development Agency filed a request for a review last September, saying the developers weren’t doing enough to mitigate the gentrifying effects of adding another mostly market-rate development to the Mission Street corridor.

“A project like this is able to and should do more to help the community, to help this family corridor that is really seeing this unprecedented growth,” said Peter Papadopoulos, an activist with the Cultural Action Network who is acting as a contractor for MEDA in this review process.

The main requests were for the developer to include more than two units of affordable housing and to find a way to help relocate the auto repair shop that the building would replace. But Papadopoulos also raised an objection to the design:

“This is not what we think of as a family corridor look,” he said. “I’m not an architect, but I think the more traditional housing that you see next door exemplifies more the feel of this family corridor.”

The question of aesthetics ended up dominating the commissioners’ discussion of what discretion they would exercise on the project, with several remarking on the sleek, modern look.

“I have to just state that I hate the design, nothing against the architect,” said Commissioner Myrna Melgar. “Big windows, to me, are a statement of class and privilege.”

“The first thing that came to mind is the Starship Enterprise,” said Commissioner Kathryn Moore. “It speaks to, really, the new housing demographics, because of its unusual highly glassy appearance. It does not smoothly integrate into the context of where it is.”

“I think we need to do something with the design and I do agree…it looks almost like a stage,” said Commissioner Dennis Richards, echoing an earlier comment. “It is a little aggressive.”

Most of the new development in the Mission looks like different versions of the same box-like structure.

Commissioners asked the developer to return in a month with new designs that turn an air shaft between the building and its neighbor into a matching light well, make a few adjustments to the roof deck to reduce the appearance of the building’s height, and to change the materials and window size to better blend into the neighborhood.

They agreed that the commission is not supposed to dictate how many affordable units are required in a building. Though earlier reports indicated the unit would have one below-market-rate unit, two of the 12 units will be affordable.

MEDA itself fell prey to the discretionary review process when a neighbor filed one against their affordable housing development at 17th and Folsom streets in early February.

MEDA’s move to delay the project drew some controversy, in part because of a report in Socketsite indicating that MEDA had a policy of being “universally opposed to any development along Mission Street.” The quote, based on a planning document, was drawn from a statement by the developer about MEDA rather than from a representative of MEDA.

Papadopoulos denied that MEDA has such a policy, saying that the agency does support below-market-rate developments and does not oppose market rate developments that make significant concessions.

“The most important thing is that the project provide as much affordable housing as possible, retain blue collar jobs, preferably provide opportunities for immigrant families entering the neighborhood,” he said in an earlier interview. “And so we’re looking for projects to include each of those kinds of components, when possible, into their design.”

The developers of 1900 Mission had also already agreed to make some changes to the project since its first proposal in 2013, like removing office space and parking spots to add three units and finding a neighborhood business that employs at-risk youth to occupy the ground-floor commercial space.

“We saw the opportunity to do what we saw as a gentle and balanced housing project,” said Doug Elliott, one of the project sponsors, who noted that he often advises affordable housing developers on their projects. “We understand the tension between the gentrification forces in the Mission and the need for housing.”

Kevin Stephens, an architect for the project, said after the hearing that the changes seemed reasonable to accommodate and called them “pretty straightforward.”

“We want to be flexible and be a good community neighbor,” said Keith Cich, who is co-developing the project. He noted, however, MEDA’s resistance to new projects on Mission street and said he hoped the changes would address their concerns.

Papadopoulos, for his part, said some of those concerns were still pertinent.

“We’d like to see projects such as this one do significantly more than the minimum affordable housing requirement during this crisis,” he wrote. “We remain concerned about the future of the 24 year old auto shop currently at the site and will seek other avenues in an effort to find a way to keep them in business.”

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10 Comments

  1. marc salomon

    MEDA is simply erecting a tollbooth so that they can bank some coin.

    Given that 90 luxury condo projects got approved under Campos’ watch, given that Ronen has promised 5000 new units in D9, this is all about directing money to our unelected community spokespeople over at MEDA.

    The North Mission is an afterthought to them. The Real Latinos live in the southern Mission along 24th street. The North Mission only exists in their mind to house nonprofits and as an opportunity site for developers and their community benefits.

    I am not sure if eviction and displacement are better or worse than living with MEDA as your landlord.

    • Sally Ruiz

      Why does Mission Local always side with MEDA? .. they are so apologetic to MEDA even though its blatantly obvious MEDA is trying to impede housing for all working families in the areas and all they care about is making sure they delay the hell out of every development to a crawl. They are perfectly happy if only 100 units are built every 5 years as long as they are the developers building the structures.

      • marc salomon

        I’m fine with them delaying market rate luxury condos. The problem arises when the only reason why they delay is so that they can get paid their toll. There is no evidence that when Mission nonprofits do well, that Mission residents see any of that benefit. To the contrary, when the nonprofits are sated, they stand down and pretend that displacement is not happening.

  2. Pat Cogan

    Here we are – 4 YEARS after this development was proposed, still discussing why a little 12 unit building needs more concessions, and how it should look like every other small-windowed stucco cookie cutter building being churned out.

    Nationwide the average time to build a multi-family unit is about a year (http://eyeonhousing.org/2015/08/how-long-does-it-take-to-build-an-apartment-building/ )

    Is it any wonder that SF has the most expensive real estate of any major city in the entire United States?

  3. John Thompson

    If you want to help the shop stay in business, look at it’s business model. Based on the rent in the area, can they sustain there business without an influx of new customers or higher prices? The planning commission is a bunch of buerocrats with no business experience. Does anyone really thing they know how to solve the business problem and help this auto show stay viable? If they new how to do that, there wouldn’t be businesses closing left and right in the Mission. They would be giving out their sage advice and keeping folsk in business.

    These people need to realize that they don’t have the ideas that will help business people. They need to bring in succelssful business owners to help consult with these small businesses that are struglling. Show them how to be efficitent in this economy. Talk to experts and don’t take advide from planning commission folks with no bsiness acumen.

  4. rick

    “said Commissioner Myrna Melgar. “Big windows, to me, are a statement of class and privilege.””
    what nonsense.
    light and air are among the few free things left. yes windows are a costly building expense and the wrong windows mean noise and heating bills – but large windows aerate and change perspective and keep one in touch with the world and the neighborhood.
    Ms. Melgar apparently lives in a dark box and feels we should too. heaven forbid poor people wanting light; it seems to belong to the rich.
    more “crabs in a bucket”.
    no wonder its so expensive to build here. this is nonsensical oversight.
    we all deserve better from elected or appointed officials in Washington and LOCALLY. just build housing already.

  5. Robert Moralez

    MEDA = GOP west. what a bunch of crooks. No wonder Hillary lost the election as folks like MEDA perpetuate the frustrations of people supposedly trying to help the poor but in reality just lining their own pockets. Hope they rot in hell and we the Latinos of the Mission district realize they have been taken for a ride for the past decade by MEDA who are actually run by the Chinatown Mafia. Just look at the management make-up. They could care less about the Latino community.

  6. Kate ruiz

    Hope Ms Miyasaki become the thorn in the side of MEDA in way that all the other developers feel about MEDA in their obstructionist tactic.

  7. Aaron Goodman

    Would not mind seeing some modern designs out towards the excelsior, instead of just stucco boxes…. and poorly designed buildings…they should be linking the Van Ness BRT out towards the excelsior, and than ensuring that development is “spread” along the corridor not just in one area….Also ensuring that not all buildings market rate in one zone, but also balanced on the ends of the transit routes and mid-stream. But they need to work on the increased transit issues, and need to create new amenities, the mission pool cannot hold that many people as they are currently building for…. capacity issues need to be addressed by planning per 10k+ new units of housing or less maybe even every 1000+ units…

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